Gain Control Over Your Past to Enhance Your Future
Moving forward successfully with our lives sometimes requires looking back to find patterns between events and making sense out of it.
This discussion may help you break your negative patterns so you can get unstuck from what's holding you back.
Getting unstuck also involves a little bit of a behavior change. But that will come naturally once you gain some understanding of how your past is controlling you now.
Becoming Aware of Destructive Patterns
You are following certain patterns developed in your past and you may not even know that this is strongly affecting you in the present.
It’s not easy to analyze why we function as we do. We are following a pattern like a road map that we don’t understand very well. Subconscious thoughts can interfere and add confusion.
We tend to dismiss thoughts that are confusing. Maybe because we think that they’re not relevant, or maybe because we are in denial of our past life stories. But that is really our ego trying to dismiss the problem stemming from cause and effect.
Our ego does not allow us to see the links between early-life events, and how we are functioning now. Our past experiences may haunt us. What complicates things even more is that there may very well be multiple events strung along in our lives that don’t seem to be connected.
When we become aware of these things, we can make an effort at looking back and finding various things that happened before that still have a strong influence on us today.
Examining Childhood Events
We need to try to keep an open mind about where the problems we have today are coming from. Looking back is not as easy as pinpointing the childhood event, or whatever it was, that is controlling our behavior today.
One event may have caused another, and that one triggered another. So now that we are adults, we lose track of it all and end up wondering why we are functioning the way we do.
We need to work hard at tracing our life events from the problem we are experiencing now, backwards to the previous event that we think is controlling our behavior today. Then back another step to the event that caused that event.
Until we get back to the early-life event that started the molding process of whom we are today, we will not be able to change our attitude.
Once we have this series of events clear in our mind, our ego looses strength and can’t hide it any longer. And we will be free to create a new behavior pattern, one that is more in line with our present goals.
How Our Past Affects Our Future
We tend to create future plans based on experiences of our past. Many times this may not be the best way to decide on where we want to be in five or ten years. In order to fully understand and appreciate how we consider our plans, I gave a lot of thought to how we subconsciously flow from our past to our future. Follow along as I elucidate on my ideas.
Our lives are divided into three time periods.
- The past that is full of memories, good and bad.
- The present that we have control over at the moment.
- The future that we can create with proper planning.
I have a question for you...
If you could live your life over again, with the understanding that you will experience it all exactly as you had the first time, would you want to do that?
I’m not proposing to be able to go back and correct your mistakes. That's impossible. But I’m asking a philosophical question. Remember that I said you would experience everything exactly as you had the first time.
Our thoughts of our past affects how we live our lives today and how happy or sad we are. If one had a miserable life then he or she would most likely not want to repeat it.
If we are not happy with our past, we should be more motivated to change our future.
Repeating An Unpleasant Past
I think it's unquestionable that anyone who was not happy with his or her life so far would have no desire to repeat it. But when you think about it, there are many people who repeat their mistakes hoping to make it work the next time around.
They just redo whatever failed the first time, or the second, third or tenth time. They choose similar partners if a prior marriage failed, they repeat the same business instead of trying something new, and they make the same investments even though they lost money the first time.
Maybe they are thinking, “I want to go back in time and start over.” But they are not giving any quality thought to what they are doing. They are not analyzing their affairs and making a conscious decision to make changes where changes are necessary.
If it were you, would you want to relive those embarrassing times, those hurtful times, those painful times? We need to understand our past and know what we did wrong. But we shouldn’t want to repeat it! An old Cherokee Indian Proverb states, "Don't let yesterday use up too much of today." To me that proverb means not to repeat more and more of your “yesterdays.”
Somewhere along the way we need to get over the reason for repeating the past. We need to get in touch with it and learn to overcome it so that we can change our course and discover a better future going forward.
Albert Einstein once said, "Insanity is repeating the same thing over again, expecting different results."
We should all use that wisdom. There will always be bad days where we have made mistakes and irrational decisions. But we need to gain knowledge of the driving force that causes us to subconsciously have a desire to repeat an unpleasant past experience.
We are not going to make changes unless we stop repeating the old nonsense and start enjoying life. Ralph Waldo Emerson said it best...
Holding On To a Good Past
Let's reconsider my prior question: If you could live your life over and start again from birth, but understanding that you will relive everything exactly as you had the first time, would you want to do that? Only this time let’s analyze the idea of repeating a good life.
If one had nothing but richly rewarding memories of the past, why in the world would they not want to experience all that again? I’ll tell you why. If they would be contemplating such a return to the past, they must be dismissing their present and their future.
If their past were so great then wouldn’t it be assumed that the goodness is continuing? Some people are never satisfied with their life. They have everything they ever wanted, but they are searching for something else. That makes them dwell on the fun times, the great times, and the rewarding times of the past.
Oscar Wilde once said “No man is rich enough to buy back his past.” Good old Oscar is implying with that statement that the past is worth so much that we can’t afford it.
I have another way of looking at that. Our past isn’t going to do us any good. It’s gone. We may have had fond memories and those are ours to cherish. The past is precious. But tomorrow is worth a fortune.
Our future is the most powerful thing we have! You can’t buy it for any amount of money. And yet, it’s being given to us for free! Every moment of every day, a little bit more of our future unravels itself.
You’ll never know when, suddenly, you say or do something that changes the course of your entire future. The next step into the future is constantly happening. Just as Abraham Lincoln once said...
Understanding Our Past
Reverse Pattern Recognition
In order to understand our past, look for patterns that can be broken. We need to recognize the emotional patterns that developed in our past. I call this Reverse Pattern Recognition.
Here's an example of what I mean.
I had always seemed to select needy women for relationships. By using Reverse Pattern Recognition, I was able to discover that this pattern started when I was in my teens. I had a needy mother and I learned how to give her what she needed, rather than considering my own needs.
I could have rebelled. Most kids did. But my mother’s neediness was so severe that I put more effort into keeping her contented. This was ingrained into my behavior so much that I subconsciously continued the same pattern with women in adult life, by being more attracted to those who needed special attention.
I didn’t know it at the time, and it took a therapist to bring this to my attention, but I was not connecting the dots. I was not aware of how my past was influencing my present and affecting the way I was functioning. I had been following certain patterns that were not benefiting my life path, but I was not aware, at the time, of the links between the cause of these patterns, and the patterns themselves.
I consciously knew that I wanted an equal, a woman who was competent and who knew how to deal with life’s issues. But for a long time, I was not aware of my dilemma. Since the issue was never resolved, because I didn’t rebel with my mother, I was still repeating the pattern of desiring needy women. Rather than rebelling, as most kids would have, I tried to pacify my mother until I moved out at the age of 20.
By recognizing the pattern that developed by looking back on it in reverse, I was able to put the pieces together. That understanding helped me clear the way to eliminate that destructive pattern.
That's Reverse Pattern Recognition. It helps us replace the agonizing over repetitive bad habits with more creative pursuits. Then we can divert our energy from reliving old wounds. This can be very rewarding and beneficial.
It may take a lot of discipline, but it's worth it in the long run so that we can get on with our life.
Successful Behavior Change
As I mentioned in the prior example, I never did rebel. It may have helped change my internal programming. Of course we can’t rebel in adult life. But just the understanding and awareness of what is going on, by using my method of Reverse Pattern Recognition, has helped.
Rather than just taking life as it comes, we can change our patterns by discovering the link from our unresolved past. This will help us create a preferred future.
If you find yourself repeating patterns that you feel are negative and are not in sync with your vision of what you really want out of your life, then try this exercise. By tracing your life events backwards from the problem you are experiencing today, to the previous event that you think is controlling your behavior today.
The understanding and awareness that you get from this exercise may help you break your negative pattern with a healthier attitude. Then you’ll find yourself moving forward more successfully and achieving the goals you wish to accomplish.
Accept Your Past, Embrace Your Present and Enhance Your Future
In my own way of thinking about where I am in life, I began to determine how my past has been affecting my present.
I became aware of how the decisions I'm making today are based on my past rather than focusing on enhancing my future, I came up with these five thoughts...
- Don’t dismiss the past, accept it and learn from it. Then do something about it.
- Notice when we are wasting energy worrying about things. Focus on positive growth.
- Pay attention when we hesitate to do something because we feel we will fail.
- Discover when we procrastinate and come to terms with the reason for it before it destroys us.
- Instead of blaming the world, other things or other people, for our limitations, we can actually do something about it with our own energy.
Can We Dismiss the Past?
The past is gone. Things happened in the past and those things affect us today. Can we drop all negative feelings and dismiss it? Not so easy, I know. Actually I can say from my own experience that it’s impossible.
And there is no reason to try to fool ourselves and dismiss our feelings and emotions. I think it’s great that we have these feelings. It means we’re alive. And we have been molded into the person we are based on how we let those past experiences affect us.
Do your feelings bother you? Do those feelings relate to bad things from the past that come back to haunt you over and over throughout your life? Do you wish you could function on a different level? I can’t stop it. And you can’t either. It’s part of who we are. The best we can do is work with it and understand it.
Accept Our Past
What if we went back to a time when we were at that age where we already had some knowledge of the world, when we already had an understanding of right and wrong? Would we be able to get our life started again with better results?
Going back to an age when we knew enough to guide our path may be the right time of our life to start over and do it better. We might be able to follow a different path with the knowledge we have now.
But we might still find ourselves making similar mistakes while following a different path because the main part of the process, our ego, has not changed.
Who Were We Then? Who Are We Now?
If we go back with the knowledge and experience we accumulated every moment since our past, I have a feeling that nothing will be different. We’d have to change our ego.
We’d have to entirely change who we are. Our personality is acquired from all our experiences, all the people we know, all the trials and tribulations that we had gone through, all the mistakes we’ve made, even all the lucky streaks we’ve had.
All that experience had shaped us into who we are. If we took all that with us, all that which makes up our personality, and go back to an earlier time in our lives, then we’d be no better off. We would just repeat the same patterns all over again.
The only way to make it work differently is to understand who we were then and who we are now. And that involves understanding what makes us tick. We need to understand why we do the things we do.
Erasing the Effects of the Past
We have both positive and negative references to our past. We would have to erase those references that are detrimental to us in the present.
But erasing the past is not possible. Rather, we need to come to terms with how we relate to the experiences we’ve had in the past.
Going back to an earlier time in our lives with the knowledge and wisdom we have today may allow us to be more positive. It may help relate to experiences that disturbed us at the time. Those experiences are causing conflicts in our present. The conflicts are the result of unresolved issues with those experiences.
If we could actually erase the effects of those experiences, would that mean we could jump-start our life? Well, we can’t erase the past. That’s a part of us now.
Knowing Who We Are Now
Those experiences from the past molded us and created the ego within us that makes up our personality. We may want to change it. Reviewing our past, we become aware of how certain things about our ego have been getting in the way. Why can’t we just erase it, dismiss it, do away with it, become a new person. Become a different person.
Who are we kidding? We don’t want to do that. Maybe some people do! I guess that might be what multiple personality disorder is all about.
But we are healthy. We know that because we see how we’ve been able to survive through life so far, figuring out how to deal with all of life's issues that present themselves. We’re good at that and we need to give ourselves credit for that.
Maybe we really don’t need to go back and start over after all. We have the power right here.
Focusing Our Energy
All we need to do is recognize who we are and the power we have to succeed. Think about all the ways we have done things right.
When you think about it, there are an infinite number of ways to do things wrong, and just one right way. Well maybe more than just one, but definitely not an infinite number of right ways. Life would be way too easy if that were the case.
If there are so many ways to do things, we need to consider which one may work best for us. We need to do this for each decision in life, coming to terms with past experiences that may force us to chose a different option.
Focusing on the best option to chose from will help save our energy. We, as human beings, are really like machines. We burn energy. We only have so much of it.
Since we've made it this far in life, then we must really have some major power force within us, recognizing that we can see where we are failing.
But we may be dispersing our energy in all the wrong places, contemplating negative past issues and allowing them to interfere with our present lives. We just need to put all our energy into the present, into this moment in time.
Enhance Our Future
If we waste our energy thinking of the past, worrying about how the past may affect us, then we won’t have any energy left to move forward with positive results.
The past has no effect on life anymore except in a way that we let it affect us. The way we process our feelings is based on our past. We can change how the past affects us by changing the way we think about it and thereby enhancing our future.
Our past makes us function as we do because we learned certain behavior from our past experiences. But the past no longer exists and we are wasting precious energy and time thinking about it and ruining our lives based on things we experienced way back in time.
If we feel we need to start over, there’s no need to go back to do it. We can start over from anywhere. From right here is a good place to start!
Putting It All Together
The Past, The Present, And The Future
Let’s just take a brief journey through the past, the present, and the future that it holds:
- If you just live in the past you will never grow.
- If you live for the moment you will never mature.
- If you live in the future alone, you are dreaming.
By allowing yourself to be aware of what the past created and what you can achieve in the future, you will make the best of the present.
My favorite quote is that of an American historian and author, Alice Morse Earle, who wrote...
“Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. And today? Today is a gift. That's why we call it the present.”
Your future is beginning right now.
© 2009 Glenn Stok
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