How to leave the past in the past

One of the hardest challenges we face is moving on and leaving the past firmly behind us. It comes up in many different ways, maybe we have made a decision and followed a path that has turned out not to be right for us at all, stuck with something that we knew not to be right, or maybe we’ve not been able to make a decision or feel that we’ve not been decisive enough. Whatever it is, we all know deep down that there are second chances, that each day is a new day, but how easy is it to leave the past behind and start afresh?

In the main we learn and grow by experience, it’s how we keep ourselves safe – if we didn’t learn that knives were sharp, fires burnt or that sabre tooth tigers could kill us we’d be in a very bad way or even extinct by now, so our ability to learn by our experience is there for a very important reason, to keep us safe. Unfortunately we often use the same mechanism for other areas of our lives as well and we extend the definition of safe from one of physically safe to include being emotionally safe. Now there are very good reasons for this and I’m not about to convince you otherwise, but sometimes it can get in the way from us moving on and creating a different a life that we’d love to have!

Often when things don’t go as we expect them to, we replay the whole thing in our head, it’s like a really bad DVD, we replay it over and over again. Partly we may be doing this because we don’t want it to happen again, we want to learn from our mistakes, from our experience, it’s like we think we have to replay it so we don’t forget it; but sometimes we do it because we want to feel bad about what has happened, like some sort of awful punishment, so we force ourselves to relive it as a reminder of what has happened.

Either way, whatever the reason, can you imagine if a friend had actually made a DVD of all of your mistakes and gifted it to you and then made you watch it? Would you do it willingly? Would you thank them? Would they remain your friend? Of course not, you would strongly question their motives, the purpose of it – you may even exclaim that the past is in the past and there’s no usefulness in playing it over and over again, it just makes you feel bad, what sort of friend would do that! However, it’s what we do to ourselves!

Why would you do something that makes you feel bad? It just doesn’t make any sense does it? Whatever has happened isn’t happening right now so it’s not in our present making us feel bad, we’re doing it to ourselves.  We have an amazing imagination and if it isn’t happening right now, we are making it up. I’m not saying that what happened didn’t happen, it did, I’m saying that when we create a thought DVD in our heads and continually replay it – that’s us making the DVD, it’s not happening right now, it’s not real.

So how do we move on? Firstly, find the DVD and throw it out, recognise it for what it is – it’s not real, it’s not going to keep you safe or make you feel better, it’s just going to keep you stuck where you are (i.e in front of a really bad DVD!). Be kind to yourself too, life is a journey of experiences and there is no real bad decision, we all make decisions with the very best of intention and if they don’t work out, there’ll be something there that we’ve learnt, something that we can use to take forward to the next part of our journey – remember it’s all part of the experience of life.

Andrea Morrison is a Transformational Life Coach, Clinical Hypnotherapist & Speaker (andreamorrison.co.uk) and is author of The Feel Good Factor in 30 days

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