Our past experiences shape our future. They create our perception of reality. Our parents, teachers, supervisors, partners, and friends impact how we see ourselves. If we felt safe, supported and encouraged by our parents, we are more likely to have confidence as an adult. However, a painful marriage or an unsupportive boss can create feelings of inadequacy and shame. A history of being abandoned earlier in life can lead to abandoning partners and friends, or lashing out when feeling emotionally vulnerable. This can lead to a string of unhealthy relationships and self-sabotaging behavior. Reflecting on past situations and mistakes as learning experiences, can help us grow as individuals and recognize what we do not want in our lives. Unfortunately, for many, reflecting on painful experiences becomes a destination. It becomes difficult to move forward in life. The need to relive the past becomes overwhelming. Emotions are triggered by sites, smells, and sounds. This can lead to chronic depression and ,Post-Traumatic-Stress-Disorder (PTSD).
- Conversations revolve around a particular time, person, or situation.
- You are attracted to, or attract, the same type of people that cause you pain.
- Disagreements revolve around past arguments.
- Easily bored or frustrated.
- Comparing your current situation to previous ones.
- Prior trauma or painful events replay in your mind.
- Self-sabotaging behavior.
- Emotional triggers that cause you to think about people or situations from the past.
- Relationships are used to fill a void or to prevent being alone with your thoughts.
- “Waiting for the other shoe to drop” — expecting something bad to happen.
- Feeling anxious or acting impulsively.
- Experiencing regret over impulsive choices.
- All or nothing thinking about new people or new experiences.
- Avoidance of new people or new experiences.
If your past is preventing you from finding happiness and achieving success in your life it’s time to take action.
1. A therapist, counselor, or coach can help identify experiences and triggers that are causing self-sabotaging behavior.
2. Setting boundaries of who you spend your time with allows time to heal.
3. Accepting the past is imperative. It can’t be changed. By accepting that the past is over, it allows time to grieve and to release the pain.
4. Practicing mindfulness is about training the mind to stay in the present, and remaining calm when experiencing emotional triggers. Mindfulness can be developed through meditation and visualization exercises.
5. Hitting reset when challenges arise. We are human and imperfect beings. Being kind to yourself if you slip up, find yourself reliving the past, or reverting to old behavior patterns. Talk to yourself as you would a friend or family member you’re close to.
6. Balance is key when working on self-improvement. It’s okay to disconnect from social media, friends, or family to focus on self-care. When we are alone, we are able to get to know ourselves and give ourselves the attention and love we need to stop living in the past.