Make Peace with Your Past – A Pivotal Conversation that Leads to Freedom
One of the most emotionally charged subjects you’ll ever talk with your clients about is how their past affects their present. When it comes to making peace with the past, it’s the hurtful aspects of the past that keep us stuck. It’s especially a problem when people continue to punish themselves, attach harmful meanings to past events, or perhaps see no meaning at all.
You can use the following outline to help you talk candidly with your clients about this emotionally painful topic. In this way, they can begin the healing process.
Making peace with your past, or “clearing your past” is a vital aspect of living a balanced life.
You’ve learned from your experiences what to expect from yourself, others and life. Some of what you learned continues to be helpful, while some of it is an ongoing source of pain.
The good news is that this learning can be improved upon. You have both implicit (unconscious) and explicit (conscious) memory and beliefs and habits. Your history can be a problem when the emotional charge from the past impedes your ability to perceive and respond to the present in a way you feel proud of. Therefore, it’s essential to choose what to retain and where to retrain for staying current in your life.
Your self-image is made up of what you think about your life—how you perceive yourself intellectually, emotionally, physically and spiritually. A damaged self-image makes it more likely that a person will accept and expect abusive treatment from others. However, this damage can be repaired.
But why is it so much easier to recall the negative experiences from your past? Often we hold positives as fleeting, random experiences and negatives as entrenched patterns. We can change this, however. By intentionally anchoring positive experiences, the brain can experience these as fixed patterns.
To illustrate, think of the brain as a crowded forest. As you travel through the thick underbrush, you break a rough path. The more often you travel that path the easier it becomes and it’s your default method of traveling. Even if your default path of thinking and being has become a negative one, with effort you can create a new, positive path. The more you travel the positive path, the easier it becomes. Over time, the old negative path becomes a faint memory.
Positive emotions, which regulate the reward-seeking system, tend to be more in the right brain. Negative emotions, which regulate avoidance behaviors in response to threat, are found in the left brain. This helps to explain why these views can be so distinct – they’re in different hemispheres.
There are four steps you can take to make peace with your past. They are:
- Organize your life timeline
- Evaluate what you learned from your past for functionality
- Update learning and habits and make organizational changes
- Integrate the new material into your daily life
Yes, it’s easier said than done. But it’s possible for everyone to clear their past when given the necessary support and guidance.
So what’s your narrative or story? Make sure it is sensible and uplifting! Memories that are traumatic tend to be poorly organized and seemingly meaningless. When you increase their organization, you decrease their traumatizing influence. Understanding why things happened and how and why you responded the way you did helps to create a stable and resilient self-concept. By finally seeing the meaning in events, you can adjust your self-concept and personal identity as you rewrite your story from an adult perspective with adult skills.
Most people have difficulty clearing their past because they still carry so much upset that they can’t think clearly. If this is true for you personally, or you have difficulty broaching this subject with your clients, please feel free to contact me, and let’s talk about creating an appropriate plan. Some of my go-to tools for doing this kind of work are in the Introduction to my Stepping Forward Program. I encourage you to download your free copy right now.
Thank you for the photo Toa Heftiba