Letting Go of the Past

   Written by on December 1, 2017 at 11:03 am
Cheryl Gowin and Dennis Gowin.  Call us at our counseling practice with your feedback, comments, issues, or questions at 434-808-2637.

Cheryl Gowin and Dennis Gowin.  Call us at our counseling practice with your feedback, comments, issues, or questions at 434-808-2637.

Have you noticed the wonderful fall colors?  Is your yard filling with a sea of colorful leaves?  Have you ever taken a moment to survey the tree’s yearly changes?  Starting in the spring with young bright green leaves poking through the branches, moving to summer with an surrounding canopy of solid green, to the fall with a panoramic display of color, lastly losing all the leaves and standing in stark bareness for the winter; each phase in preparation for the tree’s next phase of life.  So what would happen if the tree held on to the past and did not move to the next stage of life?

This is a picturesque description of the tree’s past.  This view does not include the storms, the bugs, lack of water, or the floods.  We also have a past.  It’s delightful when life’s past presents warm memories.  However, what happens when our past doesn’t paint a positive picture, if it includes abuse, neglect or hurtful things said all which mar the image of the past?  Does this describe your past?  Remember your history does not define you.  Bouncing forward is your choice to make.  Thomas Jefferson’s position on the past was, “I like the dreams of the future better than the history of the past.”

You have a choice.  You can let the negative memories cripple you forever.  You can develop a victim mentality.  Although not to your advantage it is a path you can take.  Then again, you can move from the past and bounce forward.  You can view the past as a springboard into the future.  “When one door closes another door opens; but we so often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door, that we do not see the ones which open for us,” so aptly put by Alexander Graham Bell.

So how do I bounce forward you ask?  Nietzsche gives us a clue: “A man who cannot learn to forget, but hangs on the past, however far or fast he runs that chain runs with him.”  Let us look at three steps to bouncing forward: abandoning the victim mentality that focuses on past wounds, changing to focusing on today and looking forward to tomorrow.

Your first step is to recognize the pain.  You may have been struggling with past hurts for decades without realizing these hurts are affecting you.  Find the help you need to shine light into your dark past.  Your goal is to bring the negative events to light.  Paul tells us in Ephesians that the light corrects all things brought into it.

Your second step is to pull apart the reasons and ways your negative past continues to influence you.  Uncovering the negative elements of your past allows you to look at these elements more objectively.  Turning on the light has an amazing way of disarming the bogeymen; use that light to end past’s haunting.  Paul presented this advice when he said, “Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it.  But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead.”  (Philippians 3:13)

Lastly, explore how to heal from the pain; come up with a plan to leave the past behind and move beyond the hurt.  The goal is to be set free so that you can live each day without putting up defenses or second-guessing your own motives.  This, as you will discover, is vital to bouncing forward.  “Forgiving does not erase the bitter past. A healed memory is not a deleted memory.  Instead, forgiving what we cannot forget creates a new way to remember.  We change the memory of our past into a hope for our future” is the advice given by Lewis Smedes.

These steps are not easy; but take the first step.  As 2018 approaches, find the help you need to recognize the pain, understand its effect, and determine how to heal.

 Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.  See, I am doing a new thing!  Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.  (Isaiah 43: 18-19)

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Call us with your feedback, comments, issues, or questions; our phone number is 434-808-2637.

About Cheryl & Dennis Gowin

Cheryl Gowin, Counselor and Dennis Gowin, Director of Discovery Counseling Center. Contact us with your feedback, comments, issues or questions at 434-808-2426 or dgowin@discoverycounseling.org.

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