We have been told we can’t change the past, I tend to disagree. Now I know we haven’t invented a time machine to travel back in time (yet) and undo all the bad decisions we think we made and all the people we would run away from if given the opportunity. However I believe by changing our perspective on what happened to us, in a way CAN change the past. What do I mean by this. I mean by sitting in solitude and actually remembering the traumatic events from our past with a different perspective ie. turning a negative memory in to a positive one.
Most of the “bad” things that happened to us like heartbreak, not getting the promotion or the job we wanted, in reality was was just a disappointment of an expected outcome. Staying together forever, getting married, traveling the world, having babies, getting promoted and then you will get a nicer apartment, buy that car, impress people, be happy, are all living in a “fantasy future”.
The problem is that you weren’t living in reality which is in the present moment, you were living in the future and in turn living in future ideals. When we live with attached outcomes we are setting ourselves up for dissapointment and suffering because very rarely, if ever, do our future plans play out exactly how we planned it out in our heads. Most people say they didn’t see it coming or they were shocked by the event, when in reality if you were present, you would have noticed your partner becoming distant, giving you signals they are not happy. When “traumatic” events happen we are usually jolted out of our future stories and jolted right back into the present day, which is the shock we feel.
The expectations were never going to happen because they weren’t real and the trouble with this thinking is that you can live your whole life not putting in that much attention or effort into things because you feel like it’s already happened when it hasn’t. Now I am not saying that positive thinking and imagery aren’t fantastic tools, they are, and I use them with my clients on a daily basis. However there is a difference between positive thinking and visualizing a desired outcome to set intention and goals and constantly being in a state of future thinking. One is pro active while the other is wishful thinking. Know the difference.
When dealing with ex romantic partners alot of us have pent up resentment or sadness because we are so focused on the last month of the breakup. We focus on what they did to us and how awful they are. Instead we should start to focus our attention on the positives about the realtionship. I know some of you are saying there wasn’t anything positive about it. This is not true. I assume you loved or at the very least had strong feelings towards that person, and they must of had some amazing attributes that made them desirable enough that you wanted to be with them on a daily basis. These are the things you need to focus on. The amazing feelings that person gave you, the great memories you made together, the trips, the laughter and most importantly the life lessons you learnt that are so crucial to your growth now. Even in the worst realationships you learnt what you do and don’t want in the next relationship.
I had a horrible breakup with my ex boyfriend that crippled me with sadness. When I decided I didn’t want to hold onto this sadness anymore and flipped my memories into positive ones it was a game changer. I got my life back and I was open to loving again. I changed my past by focusing on the amazing trips we had, the best christmas I had with him and his family and the amazing conversations we had and the beautifiul love we had for one another. I realized how much that the relationship was instrumental in my growth and I finally looked at my role in the breakup, because I was very much living in a fantasy future with him.
I used the breakup not to wallow in self pity but as a time to grow, learn how to truly forgive, love myself again and be proud of myself for having the strength to survive the breakup without numbing myself.
Looking back on traumatic events can be quite hard for most of us, because we develop something called disassociation. That means we don’t associate our current selves with our past selves. We look at our younger selves and the trauma that they incurred and think oh that poor little boy or girl. We need to remind ourselves that those little boys and girls were in fact us and we are still living. Most of us are walking around as adults subconsciously listening to the beliefs and stories that our 6 year old selves made up, and the scarier thing is, we still believe them.
You are the only person who survived those traumatic events so you are the only one who can truly fix the damage that was done. Confronting your emotions and figuring out the defense mechanisms you chose to make sure you would never feel like that pain again and letting them go, is the only way to be free from it. Telling someone close to you about about the event can help too, just make sure it is someone who is non judgmental and that you trust.
Keeping secrets will slowly kill you, so sometimes saying it out loud to another human, is all you need to start dealing with it. Some of the stories our younger selves told us could have been, my dad left me, so I am unlovable and every man will leave me, I got called fat, so I am not worthy or pretty, I failed my math test, I am not smart, I didn’t get picked for a sports team, I am not good enough, I will never be liked. Whatever your story is, you need to rewrite it.
I know we love to play the victim card and blame others, but the reality is we are responsible for our lives and our choices and I think deep down we all know that, it’s just easier to blame other people. You need to take accountability for your life and your mistakes, which also means you need to forgive the people in your life that you hold resentment towards. Now I know you might be saying that you have people who have done horrific things to you, that you could never forgive them. I am not asking you to invite them around every week for tea. I am asking you to forgive them not for them, but for you. There is an amazing quote by Malachy McCourt that goes, “holding resentment for someone is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.”
Holding anger and resentment for someone will just make you an angry and resentful person, and you will carry that shit with you your whole life. So for your own peace and sanity you need to forgive them and move on with your life.
As I mentioned I have had some romantic partners that have done horrible things to me and my father left when I was 2. I have forgiven all of them and I mean truly forgiven them. I did it for me, not for them and it gave me an inner peace I never knew I could have.
You need to find a quiet spot and remember the events from your past. You will probably go straight to the bad things first, as that is how you trained your brain to react. After a while softly replace those memories with the happy ones. Visualise the laughter, when you first met, the amazing trips, smile, pray for the person who hurt you, let it all out, cry if you need to, take a few massive breaths and let it go. You may have to do it a few times, but I am telling you the more you associate traumatic events with positive feelings the better your mental and physical health will be.
Please know this pain is not infinite and it will pass over time. Remind yourself everyday your life is going to be amazing, not because of your future fantasy, but because your present self is going to put the work in to make it so.
Letting go of anger and resentment is not only for you, but for everyone else around you. Taking the time to make peace with your past and let go of anger and resentment will make you a better mother, father, spouse, sister, brother, daughter, son and just a kinder, calmer human being out in the world.
So be still, feel the feelings, let it go and move on with your beautiful, amazing life and be the person you were before you let the toxic thoughts and emotions take over.