“Learn from the past, live in the present, but imagine the future”. I once saw this written on - of all places - an awning over a newsagent’s shop, and was impressed by its profundity in such an unexpected place!
It’s a good philosophy to live by as long as you don’t let negative events in the past prevent you from trying something again - your imagination running riot with worst case scenarios!
Learning from the past doesn’t always mean “Don’t do it again”. It can mean “Don’t do it the same way again!”
As with any rule, there are exceptions. Putting your hand in the fire to see if it burns is a “Don’t do it again!” but getting burned because you were careless is a “Don’t do it that way again!”
The same principle applies to most things in our lives. One bad relationship doesn’t mean every relationship will be the same; one business failure becomes a learning experience for the next business success; one wrong decision doesn’t mean you should stop making decisions!
We may not realise how much the past influences our present until it comes up and smacks us in the face in the form of a fear, a phobia, a lack of confidence, a failure to move on, or an emotional meltdown. Here’s a story I’d like to share with you.....
Ivy was in her 80’s when she asked me to help her come to terms with the past. Her experiences in the air force during the war were coming back to haunt her more and more and she wanted to lay them to rest (perhaps before she herself was laid to rest?).
I visited Ivy in her home. She was bedridden, on oxygen, with constant pain in her legs, and suffering in many ways. Yet she was cheerful, chatty and very open-minded. During our sessions she frequently drifted into sleep and I just sat and talked to her (the subconscious mind is always listening).
There were times when she regressed to painful events in her past that still caused her distress, particularly seeing her friends and fellow officers blown up around her, or failing to return from a mission. At such times she experienced again all the emotions, anguish, sorrow and regret she had lived through then. Her need was to understand why she had been spared when so many died, and to say a proper goodbye to them, having been denied it then.
We worked through each death, each parting, bringing each person back into this time to say goodbye and reassure her they were not suffering, that they were fine and still remembered her with love and affection.
Eventually, Ivy felt an overwhelming sense of relief and release from the past. She found she could remember her friends with affection and joy, rather than with sorrow and pain. She could recall things they had done together, moments they had spent together, without the dark cloak of death blocking out the light. She was free.
Within a couple of months Ivy herself passed on, but I like to think her last weeks were wrapped in warm memories of the past and excited anticipation of meeting her friends once more when it was her time.
We may not be aware of the effects of the past on our present feelings, actions and attitudes, but we cannot escape them. Change may require us to examine our thoughts and feelings, question their origins and let go of anything that is no longer useful or that causes us pain or discomfort. This is not always easy to do in a self-help way, and seeking outside help or therapy is not a sign of weakness. It is a sign of strength to face up to our problems and deal with them in the best way possible, and it makes the path to transition a whole lot easier when the stumbling blocks are removed.
Something to think about.....