Understanding, facing and releasing one’s past has always played a key part in therapy . There seems to be lots of very confusing messages about how the past can or cannot help us in developing a better way of living today. Some say the past must be faced, understood, released or accepted to bring peace to a person. Others focus on the present as being the most important and that it is far more important to focus on the today on the Present. So does the Past even have any relevance for us in our daily lives?
Toaist philosophy seems to put it most succinctly in identifying that the past has brought one to where one is today; the present is the only thing we have any direct control over; and the future is welcomed in by the present.
So what is the thinking about the past and the therapeutic approaches? Broadly there is;
- Trace your ancestry, to find out who and where your people come from. Perhaps even find some long lost pot of gold or perhaps more likely some old scandal (as most things beyond “taking tea with the neighbour” was probably considered scandalous back in the day).
- Various types of counselling which enable us to look at our past, or past events and how they have affected us and continue to affect us today. These approaches enable one to move closer to releasing unhelpful belief systems and detrimental reactive behaviour patterns.
- Deeper therapies, such as hypnotherapy or trance states help to unlock memories which are buried so deeply we don’t consciously remember them, perhaps from childhood or are locked into a traumatic event we find difficult to remember. These hidden memories often result in unconsciously skewing our reactions and effecting our behaviour today. This can often result in some way blocking us from developing good relationship behaviour; or causing unnecessary emotional unrest and anxiety.
- Letting go of the past, through mindfulness and/or affirmations focusing on the now, as the Present being the only time frame we truly have any real control or influence over. Hence the lovely story “The Precious Present” by Spencer Johnson and powerful sayings such as “The past has no power over me. I know that it is over, and I live solely in the present.” Hay House.
- Past Life Regression – for those who believe or just know that something sits deeper and stretches beyond this life time – something that is holding them back that is sitting deep in the subconscious and needs to be witnessed, understood and released.
So where does that leave us between these messages which seem to contradict each other, broadly boiling down to two broad scenarios of either forget your past, it no longer matters, be empowered now to move into a brighter future; or until you release your pain you will be held by your past and cannot be fully in present and therefore can’t embrace your future.
Although these may seem confusing and conflicting messages, I have found from both personal experience and that of others these different approaches all have their important role to play in helping a person heal and come to terms with difficulties in their lives. There is no doubt that past events can have a significant impact on our behaviour and well-being. Identifying these and understanding them and releasing them from our mental and emotional being can have a profound effect on improving a person’s well-being.
What I have experienced is that by releasing pain, past injury and getting to a place of forgiveness and peace is not done just through mental thought processes or pills. It has to be from one’s very core, physical, energetic and soul core, for healing to be complete. Only then will health, freedom, detachment and wholeness be once again be restored.
Dadi Janki writes about forgiveness in her delightful book “Wings of Soul”. She says that to forgive you have to forget and that to forget you actually have to first remember. It is in the remembering and asking, why am I still held in this moment, what is it that still holds me here you can start to let go and start to forget. Personally I have found the Shamanic techniques particularly powerful for this type of work.
So how does mindfulness assertions that it is only today that matters; and the affirmations to not let the past rule one, because it is just that, the past, fit into all of this?
Mindfulness practice and other similar meditation techniques are incredibly powerful at retraining our minds away from churning over what has been, they enable us to centre and be clear, be really present in the now and thereby make discerning decisions about how we want to move into the future. It is a key mind-set for anyone either battling with issues from their past, with current worries, undergoing or having completed therapies which have worked on facing and releasing their past. Why? Because it helps us learn, retrain and retain new patterns of thought and behaviour, so we can truly change our lives from the inside out.
So if Mindfulness and similar mental disciplines are so powerful, do we actually need to delve into our past? Sometimes YES, so we can actively cut ourselves free from the emotional “ball and chain”.
To conclude, yes there are clearly two broad schools of therapy with regards the importance of “the past” – one states only now is important; while the other states we need to face and come to peace with our closet skeletons. Are they at odds? No – they work hand in hand to ensure those “skeletons” are not pulling on your hand as you walk into your future.
“When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be.
When I let go of what I have, I receive what I need.”