Between the moment we are born, to the moment we reach adulthood, many of us experience incredible, profound pain.
Some of us have been sexually, physically, or psychologically abused — and then left to pick up the pieces on our own.
In the most vulnerable and sensitive stage of our lives, we’ve been exposed to the deep flaws of those around us. And with that, our deep innocence and natural reverence for life has been buried into the pits of our psyches.
But however far our primordial innocence and reverence for life has been lodged away, for most of us, our innate attitudes towards life are still recoverable.
And our past doesn’t have to decide our future.
Life can still be worth loving.
The Kind of Experiences We Collectively Go Through
Right now, there are daughters who are experiencing the feeling of being unloved to their very core by their parents.
In the last hour, countless kids have been violently hit by a parent for a simple, innocent mistake they’ve made.
Right now, there’s an autistic kid in school who is being picked on by everyone in his classroom.
What Kind of Adults Will These Abused Children Grow Into?
Today, teenagers who have been bullied year after year, have been told to go out into the world and ‘make something of themselves’, with the slippery foundation of a past story that makes them feel deeply subconsciously inadequate.
And let’s not forget the many who have been abused at home.
In 2016, according to Childrensrights.org, there were 4.1 million reports of child maltreatment in the United States involving more than 7.4 million children.
It will be much harder for many of these individuals to move forward in their life in the way they want, if they’re being dragged down by the past.
Not everyone ends up getting the help they need. Not everyone ends up doing the work to heal their past. And for many, they ‘manage’ (just about) without any sort of intervention.
But life isn’t about managing.
It’s about thriving, and living closer to our potential.
If you have scars from the past, you’re not alone. And the feeling of not being alone, can at the very least, bring some semblance of solace.
But it’s not enough.
Modern Self Improvement Negates the Past
With the virality of motivational videos from people like Eric Thomas, Gary Vaynerchuck, and Tony Robbins, we’ve been told that the way to a better life is through hard work + strategy + hustle.
And while there is plenty of wisdom and value in some of the common ideas shared on success today, the common rhetoric about living a good life, is often void of a holistic understanding of what shapes us as human beings.
For many of us, very little will help us move forward in a significant way -until we’ve healed our past. A garden can’t grow until it’s roots have been tended to. A soil patch can’t grow thriving luscious wildflowers if it’s devoid of nourishment.
Stepping back and looking back at the story of our lives, and how that story is shaping our identity today, is perhaps the most productive thing we could ever do. It’s the metaphorical equivalent to tending to our roots.
After All — Here Are The Symptoms of Childhood Traumas
- Insecure/Anxious Relationships
- Victim-hood Thinking
- Lack of Ambition
- Feelings of Abandonment
These symptoms can all manifest to differing degrees. And we’ve likely all experienced one or more of these as adults.
When we realize that our present challenges, are often a partial or a complete symptom of what we’ve experienced in the past, we can bring more compassion to ourselves.
We don’t have to continually blame our present selves. We can realize that our present experiencing self is in large part, a manifestation of our past selves, and by correcting the cracks in our pasts, we can correct our present lives.
Why We Replay the Past
The neurological basis for why we place a large emphasis on our past traumas is because our brain is attempting to warn us from the same thing happening again in the future. If something keeps repeating in our minds, according to clinical psychologist and author Jordan Peterson, it’s because we haven’t articulated how we can prevent the same occurrence from happening again.
By laying out the narrative of our past, speaking about it, and identifying how we felt during that period, and what lessons we can extract from our experience, our past can become a tool that serves us in the present. Without this analytical approach to our past, our past owns us.
Instead of us owning it.
A Simple Question To Heal your Past
Our past can either empower us, or it can negate us. Splitting apart your past in three epochs will enable you to identify the major negative experiences in your life more easily.
What were the three most significant dis-empowering moments and endings in your life between the ages of:
By taking the time to think this through, and even write these experiences down, you’ll have 9 significant mini-stories that have partially shaped the story of your past, and your present identity.
From there, you can zero in on what you learned from those experiences, and the likelihood of them ever happening again. Doing so, will stop your brain from replaying these negative experiences. You’ll stop being led by these experiences.
Philosopher Daniel Kahneman shares in his TED Talk, The Riddle of Experience vs Memory, that we essentially are two selves. We are the experiencing self(present moment focused) and the remembering self (the one that keeps score of our story).
By honing in your past, you will be changing your remembering self, and your experiencing self. You will no longer be in the fog. You will be dissecting your past, so that it serves you.
Healing the past, will always be more important than conquering the future.
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Erin shows overscheduled, overwhelmed women how to do less so that they can achieve more. Traditional productivity books—written by men—barely touch the tangle of cultural pressures that women feel when facing down a to-do list. How to Get Sh*t Done will teach you how to zero in on the three areas of your life where you want to excel, and then it will show you how to off-load, outsource, or just stop giving a damn about the rest.