Letting Go Of the Past to Appreciate the Present

Suffering doesn’t make us grow –

but what we do with our feelings could make us grow. ⚡️💡

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It’s an interesting saying though. Where did it come from?  Perhaps it’s because anguish and acute awareness sometimes occur near one another, in time and space.

For me, however, what makes us grow is understanding our feelings, questioning the thoughts behind them, seeing the cause-and-effect of it all, and mindfully letting go.

If we utilize this information the next time these feelings arise (anger, sadness, depression, confusion, fear), we can remember the awareness, the ‘aha’ moment, or insight we discovered before. We can  notice that what we are experiencing in the here and now is separate from the past, and know that our reactions don’t really apply in the current situation. Awareness sets us free to respond differently.

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Uncomfortable feelings are nearly always preceded by a stressful thought, and when the feelings come, we can isolate the stressful thought, idea, or assumption and question it thoroughly.

I find journaling a powerful aid here. Just write your rambling thoughts about a situation that made you uncomfortable (in your mind or in reality – doesn’t matter). Then let it set. You probably will already feel better because the act of writing is cathartic. But for true growth to occur, go back later and read what you wrote. Pretend you are a scientist!  Your job is to (compassionately) dissect your writing to find the threads of connection…

Try asking these questions:

1. Have I ever felt this way before? Are there any other similarities?

Personal example:   I had to  go to my son’s junior high school to deliver his medicine.   I noticed I had a racing heart, a sense of urgency to complete the task, and an overall sense of shame and dread.

It made no sense in my logical mind.

 Have I ever felt this way before? Are there any other similarities? 

Junior high was very scary for me. I was picked on by other girls and I was even beaten up a number of times. The threats often occurred when students were moving from one class to their next, so I was especially scared when that bell rang!

2.  What were the beliefs / thoughts around the event? 

Awareness: my heart is racing; I have a sense of urgency and intense fear.

THOUGHTS:  I Visualize being attacked. “If I can become unnoticeable, I might make it… Hopefully the bell won’t ring!”

Once we gently meet our past with understanding, we can separate those experiences and respond to the present authentically.

By listening, compassionately, to your own mistaken, innocent mind, you can become free… from this,  then that,  then…

Life Is Like a Book. 



How To STOP Overthinking Everything

“We all do our best to stay positive, but occasionally we can slip into negative thinking patterns that can wreak havoc on our lives. We might worry about our past mistakes or current stresses, and how these could lead to negative outcomes in the future. We might obsess about or over-analyze regular experiences and interactions, reading into them things that aren’t actually there. We might find that as soon as one bad thing happens, we associate it with all the other bad things that have happened in our lives and begin to feel miserable. We might feel anxious in the present, having a hard time getting out of our own heads as we worry and obsess about the things that could go wrong.”   ~ Thinking Minds

If overthinking interferes with your general sense of wellbeing, here are a few tips to Take Back Control of Your Brain!

1.  Understand “Normal”

The brain is actually hardwired to think out all the possible outcomes of a situation.  Thanks to the decision-making frontal-lobe, we’ve evolved to think about our problems.  But overthinking keeps the brain in an agitated cycle while dumping fight or flight chemicals into our blood system(Research shows that overthinking releases cortisol, the stress hormone, that will get you even more distressed).

2.   Jot it down

When you notice your thoughts are recycling the same scenarios, taking a few deep breaths will help calm the brain down. Then put your thoughts on paper. By getting it “out of your head” and putting it in black and white on paper, you effectively short-circuit the brains need to remember! And looking at it, instead of thinking about it, you get a new perspective.

3.  Practice mindfulness meditation

When we’re racked with too many thoughts, we feel over-stimulated. Mindfulness meditation can quickly calm you down, making it easier to make sound decisions. Try it now – close your eyes. Focus on the air moving in and out as you breathe. Tune into your tactile sensations: your weight on the seat, the feel of the fabric of your clothes, the warmth of the sun on your skin…. If thoughts arise, notice, and allow them to float on by….

4.  Get moving

Changing your environment, walking, hiking, biking, getting the heart pumping, can loosen the closed-circuit cycle of relentless thinking. You don’t need to try to clear your mind – just let your thoughts roll through your head at their own pace.

5.   Check your beliefs

Underlying all anxiety and all overthinking are a set of beliefs. Have you ever asked yourself where they came from? Or if you actually really believe them? For instance, most people are mortified by the thought of tripping or falling in public. Why??? “People who fall are idiots”. Hmm… I actually do NOT believe that. “People who fall are weak”.  I don’t think that’s true either. But maybe being perceived as weak means you’ll need to be removed from the herd! Well, thanks to the frontal-lobe, I no longer need that instinctual response, so I can choose to dismiss it.

What a relief!

 

If you wrote it Autobiography, What Would the Chapter Titles Be?

What links your life together?

Start with ten.  (This is one of the assignments I frequently give my clients.)

You can choose life events, demographics, influential people you’ve known, talents, even “aHa” moments.

Mine might be:

  1. Born female, in the USA, to a progressive, liberal mother.
  2. “Abandoned” at four years old (for a year).
  3. Abused by my stepfather, resulting in their divorce.
  4. Moved, age 10, from a middle-class neighborhood to poverty neighborhood. I was suddenly a “minority”.
  5. My mother worked 18 hours a day, so my siblings and I raised ourselves.
  6. Growing Up in the 70’s.
  7. Studied spiritual philosophies, finding an affinity with Christian, Buddhist, and Taoist ideas.
  8. Became a mother of twin boys.
  9. Started my own business as a psychotherapist.
  10. Killed a person in a car accident.

(Wow! I just did that off the cuff! Very powerful!).

Next, you fill in the chapters. What about (That) affected you? What characteristics were created because of ________? You might ask yourself:

  • How did ____ influence you?
  • What did you discover about yourself?
  • What did you have to learn to overcome?
  • How did ______ wound you? Strengthen you?
  • Define your gratitude for these occurrences/events

Using one of mine as an example:

Yes, I killed a person in a car accident.

  • I discovered that life can change – drastically- in an instant. And in THAT particular instant, I didn’t even know it. For a long time, I’d have terrible dreams, I’d have flashes of people appearing in the road before I could do anything about it… I struggled with my connection to God (I’d like to have made it through my life without killing someone).
  • I discovered that I loved and understood myself, even if society didn’t. I confirmed my value of always telling the truth, as I knew it, and that I continue to do what I think is right – even if others disagreed (I wrote to his family against the advice of my attorney, who thought such an act would be misinterpreted as guilt).
  • I had to learn to live with knowing most people would make up stories about me that weren’t true (“she must have known!”, “She must have been drinking!”).  I had to overcome needing people to understand me.
  • I will always have this heavy burden in my soul.
  • I am grateful for the people in my life that tried to help me. I’m grateful to learn that other peoples  opinions of me no longer affects what I think of me.

 What have been the greatest influences in your life? What ties your life all together?