“The past is over. Stop living in the past. Move on. All you have is today. Stop dwelling.”
We hear these words and phrases all the time, and yet...have we really moved on?
Or have we unknowingly let our past actually seep into our lives right now?
I am a firm believer that there are times when many situations seem to keep showing up in deceivingly similar ways in our lives until we have learned what we need to from them.
Because these kinds of situations can get very obscure and are very person-specific, I want to share with you some examples of how your past may actually be impacting your life right this very day.
Now, of course, these made-up examples don’t apply to every person who has ever had these or similar experiences. They’re simply examples of ways that we can carry our pasts into our present lives. If you resonate with any of these ideas, you may have just become aware of a possible similar parallel in your own life.
Example Number 1:
Susie just can’t seem to find the right guy. She’s had many failed relationships, and no guy seems to want to commit to her. Susie thinks she’s doing everything right. She just doesn’t understand why guys seem so interested for awhile, and then they run. She’s beginning to think she’ll never find a great partner for her life.
Meanwhile, Susie’s relationship with her father is dicey at best. He was barely around for much of Susie’s childhood, and when he was around, he’d tease Susie a lot, about her appearance and other things. He always thought it was just in fun, but Susie was often hurt by the teasing. She could never tell him, though. He was her dad! He worked all those long hours just to put food on the family table. He did his best. So Susie just silently dealt with the hurt. Meanwhile, she just couldn’t find that right guy...
Example Number 2:
Robert is a very hard worker in his company. There’s only one problem that Robert’s coworkers have with him. Robert is extremely competitive, especially with the other men in his company. Now, Robert’s company is known for being one of the top in its class, but Robert takes this to the extreme. He even tries to undermine the efforts of the other male salespeople in his own company, just to prove that he’s the best. More than once, his coworkers have had to deal with his angry outbursts when he is not the top performer in a certain sales period. They don’t understand why he acts this way. Shouldn’t he be happy that the company is doing so well, even if he isn’t always on top? Doesn’t he get that the great performances of his colleagues also benefit him?
Meanwhile, Robert has had a fiery relationship with his only brother, John. They were always competitive as young boys, and Robert always felt that their father was more pleased with John than he ever was with Robert. Whenever John tries to share any kind of success in his own life, Robert always has to one-up him, and it comes at the cost of a huge angry fight. John has become so tired of Robert’s outbursts that he’s stopped talking with Robert completely. The last time they talked was over 10 years ago.
Example Number 3:
Jenny has suffered from severe self-esteem issues her whole life. But right now, her lack of confidence is showing up in an area that she cares about the most—her future dream of starting a restaurant. Jenny has all these great ideas, and she knows that she could be successful in her craft. She’s been cooking all her life, after all. She’s tried so many other jobs and none have felt right for her. But this restaurant idea really has her going. Jenny’s few close friends have raved about her food. But Jenny just isn’t sure. No matter how others may say her food is amazing, she just can’t bring herself to really believe them. What if they’re just saying those things to be nice? They all know she has this dream. What if they’re just trying not to disappoint her?
Meanwhile, Jenny’s mother is and has always been toxic to her. No matter what Jenny tries to do, her mother has nothing nice to say about it. Jenny’s mom kicked her out of the house immediately at 18, telling her she had to find a way to make it on her own in life. Her mom told her in the past that Jenny was never really wanted, and she was just a burden once Jenny’s father was out of the picture. Jenny has told her mom about her restaurant dream. Her mom said, “You’d just better hope that no one gets sick from any food you ever make...”
I could make up so many more stories just like these. Chances are that you even have a similar story yourself to add to the collection.
Do you see how, in each story, the main character has likely unintentionally carried some of their past into their present lives? And do you see how drastically this is impacting their lives right now?
Of course, it doesn't always mean that if we feel we are struggling in areas of our lives, it is because of some unresolved past issues. And it doesn’t help to beat ourselves up if we realize we still may indeed be carrying our past into our present in certain ways in our own lives, and then to become stuck in even more shame or hard feelings. What does help, I’ve found, is to acknowledge the reality of our situation so we can begin to heal in deeper and greater ways. This is the kind of healing that can help us in our lives today and well into our future.
It’s easy to think that our initial relationships with our families don’t impact us as much when we are adults or on our own. However, even if we’re fortunate to have healthier relationships with our families than the three characters have above, the impact our families can have on our adult lives can be major.
When we are babies, we are hard-wired for survival. So we often try to do whatever we can to get our basic needs met. This means listening to those people around us and trying to make them happy so that we can at least survive. However, as we become adults, sometimes this hard-wired sense of survival, tied to our families or primal connections, can have impacts on our lives we may not have currently thought of.
Often times, we seem to separate (mentally and emotionally) the relationships we form as adults from those we’ve formed with others as children. We also often separate our current situations from our past upbringing. But many times, there can be some very interesting parallels.
In each of the above examples, there is a primal relationship drastically affecting an adult person’s life—right now. Thankfully, in each of the examples, there is great hope for healing and making different choices.
For instance, in Example 1 above, Susie could start by first seeing the possible connection between the men she has found and the relationship she’s had with her dad. Just like her father couldn’t commit emotionally to Susie’s childhood (even if he did his absolute best and was truly a great provider for the family), now Susie is finding men with a very similar characteristic—they can’t commit healthily to her either.
Once Susie sees this connection, she can come to accept it. This can be hard, as she will have to admit to herself that while she still loves her father and always will, he wasn’t able to provide a very important need for her as a child. It doesn’t mean he didn’t do his best, but it doesn’t negate that Susie needed him to be there for her in a way he didn’t know how to show her.
If Susie can come this far, over time she can come to forgive her father and continue learning how to navigate her own relationship world with men. Of course, life never offers any guarantees, yet Susie will have done some amazing growth and healing on her own journey, no matter what may happen in her future. She may even find herself seeking out men with different characteristics than before.
In Example 2, Robert may need to come to healthier terms with two primal relationships—the one with his brother John and the one with his father. Robert may need to ask himself why it was that he really felt his father liked his brother John more.
Whether or not his father actually did favor one brother, Robert may come to better find his own healthier sense of himself if he can realize what a great salesperson he actually is. Life doesn’t always have to be a competition, yet if Robert has been aching for a wound to be healed, particularly a primal wound like the one he seems to have with his father and brother, life can seem to become very competitive.
Robert may have feared from boyhood on that there wasn’t enough love to go around for him. That is why he may still be showing angry outbursts among his colleagues to this very day. Robert may secretly fear that if he doesn’t show himself as number one, then his company or his colleagues won’t like or appreciate him and may even let him go. If Robert can understand how what he felt as a boy is seriously affecting his life right now, he may be able to heal and live a much healthier life.
Robert may really benefit by slowly allowing himself to forgive his father, his brother, and also himself. And he may realize that he can still be successful and valued without making everything in life into a competition.
In Example 3, it may really benefit Jenny to set boundaries with her mother if she continues to be toxic to her. Just like Robert and Susie, Jenny may find great healing in allowing herself to forgive her mother over time. But in Jenny’s case, it may really serve her to see less of her mother. This can obviously be an extraordinarily difficult decision. Remember, we are hard-wired for survival, and considering breaking connections with anyone who has helped us survive from our earliest days can trigger some intense feelings of betrayal and abandonment in both parties.
Yet, if Jenny really wants to open this restaurant, she needs to believe that she has the talent and capability to do so. She needs to really be able to hear her friends and receive their praise when they rave about her cooking. And she needs to have the confidence to seek out help from others who may be able to help this big dream of hers come true.
Jenny’s relationship with her mom has obviously greatly affected her self-esteem and may continue to do so if it remains as it is. Jenny’s mom doesn’t seem to be in a place where she can really hear Jenny and understand how much she is hurting her. So Jenny may choose to set some firm boundaries around this relationship. Over time, Jenny may come to understand that her love for her mother will never change, yet it can be done from a distance so that Jenny doesn’t continue to get hurt. And who knows how many people will benefit from Jenny’s amazing food?
Like all of the characters in these examples, we may each benefit from taking another look at our own primal relationships as well, right now at this point in our lives. We may be completely surprised and shocked to realize that some of them are still deeply affecting our very thoughts and actions to this day!
Of course, in some ways, we carry all of our experiences with us. As much as we can heal from so many experiences—and we do have an extraordinary human capacity for resilience—there will still be some part of us that will have been affected by our experiences. Yet, in learning to bring our pasts up to date with our present lives, we may be able to make substantial changes in our lives starting right this very day—changes that can impact our future in wonderful, healing, successful, and peaceful ways.
This is truly the reason why I’ve created my first book, All About Me: A Journey for Self-Reflection. Understanding things in ways like the examples of the three characters above has changed my life in extraordinary ways. I want to give you a similar opportunity with a very simple process—one that is totally personal to you. If you’re wondering how your past may be affecting your life right now, I highly encourage you to check out this book. I’ve made it with so much love, and I hope that you may find so much healing and understanding within its pages.
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No matter what, always remember this: You are deserving, you are worthy, and you are good enough. Keep being you, keep shining, and keep growing!
With great love,