How to make peace with your past
When you look back, is there anything you remember that troubles or upsets you? Do you regret missed opportunities, failed relationships or people that you hurt? Do you feel guilt over things you did wrong and poor decisions made?
You are not alone. We all carry these feelings with us. The question we should ask is how this is affecting you today. Are they holding you back from success in some aspects of your life? Are you scared to commit or to take risks or worried about repeating past mistakes?
You might say, “No, I am fine and I feel none of these things.” But be aware that at a sub- or unconscious level you may still have these feelings. In all my years of coaching people no one has come to me totally at peace with their past.
At the other end of the scale, be careful that your memory is not biased – recalling the negatives and forgetting the positives of past events. It is easy to think that you were hurt or upset in the past when in truth you might have only partially understood or remembered what actually occurred. For example: feeling neglected when your parents were simply wanting to give you space to make your own choices. Or feeling guilty that you resigned from your first job because you didn’t want to face your boss’s criticisms, when in reality that boss might have been a bully whom no one could work for.
The lesson from all this is that you cannot change your past, but you can change the way you think and feel about it. Here are some tips on how to achieve this mind-shift.
Take your head out of the sand
Be willing to explore and talk about issues from your past. Do not pretend that everything is fine when it is not. I had a friend who, following a divorce, had not seen his children for over 20 years. I could see how this had affected him, how he had become cynical and harsh about life. He pretended otherwise, saying, “If my kids don’t want to see me, that’s OK.” Over time he finally opened up to me about his true feelings of loss and hurt. He has since reconnected with his children.
Understand what really happened
Do you have events in your past that you are not sure about? Try to find out what really happened. Speak to family and friends. If needed, undergo hypnosis or other forms of therapy. Hopefully, what you discover will be better than you might have feared. No matter whether it is or not, you cannot move on from something that you do not truly understand.
Resolve outstanding issues
To bring you peace there may be events from your past that need resolving. Things you wish to talk about with people from your past. You might be facing something as tragic as having suffered abuse. This will take courage to deal with, particularly if those from your past deny any wrongdoing. Persist – it is very healthy and cathartic to clear the air and to address things that trouble you.
Let the past help you move forward
What wisdom and lessons from your past experiences can help you today? Perhaps you can see patterns in your behaviour. Have you been running away from commitments? Do you avoid speaking up? Do you always attract people into your life who will control you?
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Nigel Cumberland a Dubai-based leadership coach and is the founder of The Silk Road Partnership. His book "100 Things Successful People Do: Little Exercises for Successful Living", is available on Amazon as well as UAE bookstores.