Over the past week I’ve had sessions with three different clients that have included the line “remember that what you’re feeling in this moment isn’t based on what’s actually happening, it’s based on your experiences of the past”, and so I’m wondering if it’s something that needs to be talked about more widely…
I know, this is just one line of any decent psychology 101 explanation, but sometimes we need to hear or read something one more time in a slightly different way to have it really sink in and help our own selves, so bear with me while I write a little more about this again.
Let’s start with an obvious truth: we all see the world differently. And our own past experiences play a huge part in shaping our own personal view of the world.
That makes sense right? You know something is a chair because once upon a time someone told you that was the case; and you know those are for sitting on because you’ve seen other people do just that your entire life, and have likely done the same for yourself – very successfully – countless times before. Pretty simple to understand.
But what about when you start to look at the less obvious correlations between your past and your current life...
Remember the wonderful praise you got from an old boss that time you really worked your ass off? So why the hell wouldn’t your brain tell you that working super hard = good feelings, even if lately it’s left you more burnt out than blissed out?
And what about the more fear-driven patterns; Say you experienced the childhood loss of a parent – be that through death of through a bad separation in your childhood. Why wouldn’t your brain be constantly waiting for the people you love and depend upon most to walk away from you?
Maybe it’s a romantic relationship that became gradually more oppressive or even abusive? Your unconscious mind remembers the pain of those experiences even more than your conscious mind does, so of course it will pull you back every time you try to become especially intimate with someone else.
This even goes for the one-off, simple stuff that you’d worked through. I had a big car accident a few years back, for example, and realised earlier this year that every time I got behind the wheel of the car I would feel anxious. That anxiety wasn’t enough to stop me driving, but it was enough to take the pleasure out of something I used to love.
The similarity between all of these things? That the feelings and fears that they bring up, or in some cases the motivations behind the actions themselves, aren’t fully on what’s happening in the here and now but on the experiences of what’s happened before. And while the past has lots of great memories and gifts to give us, it can also do a damned good job of holding us back…
A lot of people will talk about the need to retrain our brains to change those old patterns, and of course that’s massively important.
It’s something I’ve worked hard at over the past few years and something I really love to do with clients too – not just through traditional things like unpicking our thought processes and the reactions our bodies go through in those moments, but through the more holistic things that I know work, like delving into chakra blockages, working with affirmations, ritual and visualisations. But to me that’s part two of the journey to changing those mindsets.
Part one is about looking at where those ideas came from in the first place.
It’s about going back to the very root of those thought patterns to understand what it is that your unconscious mind is worried about or trying to protect you from or bring you back to.
From there you can fully explore the feelings that original experience brought up, and not only work through them, but also remind your unconscious mind of why it’s OK to be less convinced that this exact same thing will happen again in future.
Of course that also means unpicking the differences between the conditioning of those patterns and the intuitive voice that tells you when a particular situation really isn’t right for you.
And it also means investigating ways that you can still keep yourself as safe as possible without being completely restricted or defined by the experiences of your past.
Because after all none of this is about trying to make you feel unsafe, or steering you away from that deep inner wisdom that we all carry within us. And I guess those things are when my approach to this pattern breaking becomes a bit more Soul-led than others I’ve experienced.
The most important thing of all of that is recognising that this is big work that isn’t necessarily easy. If your unconscious has been holding on tightly to these experiences it’s probably because there are some bloody big emotions attached to them, so it’s definitely something I recommend doing in a safe environment.
But working through and with these experiences can be incredibly be powerful and, I firmly believe, is hugely important if you really want to move forward from your past and have greater control over the ways in which you live your life in future.
If you’re finding yourself stuck in the patterns of your past, and looking for a safe place to work through the roots of those patterns and crack them once and for all, then therapy might just be a good way to do that.
If you’d like to know more about Soul-Led Counselling then check out some information here, and by all means get in touch to book up a free introductory session of your own.