Last week I spoke to a friend who’d just completed a mindfulness course. As you’d expect, her course was all about learning to be in the present and within it the instructors talked about how little benefit there was to be gained from looking into the past (or at the future, but that’s a story for another day).
Now I’m a big fan of mindfulness and everything it stands for, and so I get where they’re coming from. But I also totally and utterly disagree.
I’m a trained counsellor so I guess I’m a little biased, but that means that I’ve seen firsthand, both as a counsellor and as a client, just how much benefit dealing with the crap you’ve carried for years can bring. And it’s because of that that “making peace with your past” is one of the main purposes of my client work.
Whether it’s the labels we’ve been given or have given ourselves which have convinced us we can’t move forward in the ways that we want to or unhealed pains from the past that we’re yet to fully deal with, our past can have a huge impact on how we see ourselves and our lives right now, and the opportunities we see for ourselves in future.
For me, having carried labels of being the “strong” one, the “clever” one and the “brave” one for so long, I spent the first three decades of my life convinced that I wasn’t and would never be “pretty”, “classy” or “dainty”. And not only did those things affect the way I saw myself, they also affected the way that I lived my life.
But they weren’t the only unhelpful things from my past that I carried forward… how many of us carry so much pain from the past – especially when it comes to relationships – that we run a mile at the slightest risk of repeating that mistake and being hurt in the same way again?
Equally, how many of us find ourselves repeating the same patterns over and over again seemingly with no control, without every understanding why we do what we do.
You know the story as well as I do; “she loves a bad boy”, “I always go for the broken ones”, “why do I always end up with someone who..." insert your own pattern here.
It’s the great unanswered question of someone unhappy in love. But there is almost always an answer… and it lies in the past.
Delving into the past can be painful, and it can be bloody hard work. But it’s also damned beneficial when it comes to helping you to move forward, because whether it’s beliefs, pains, fears, forgiveness or outdated ideas of what’s right for you, shedding those burdens is a huge weight off your shoulders.
For me, I love delving into the past with my clients. The lightbulb moment when someone realises what it is that’s been holding them back, so can see a way to work through and deal with something they’d previously thought they were stuck with, is huge!
I’ve been there as the client too, and those moments are always the ones that suddenly mean you can breathe – you know? The ones that suddenly help you to see your story so far in a new and brighter way, and in doing so give you the sudden recognition that maybe, just maybe, you can write the happy ending to your story that you’ve been wishing for.