“We are made wise not by the recollection of our past, but by the responsibility for our future.” — George Bernard Shaw
A troubled past is not a sentence for a deprived future. Our wounds can often be used to create a remarkable future if we perceive them through the lens of compassion and forgiveness.
Everybody has experienced pain and troubles in their life, however we mustn’t stay mired in our problems but use them as insights to better understand ourselves. Our troubles do not mean we are flawed or lacking as many are led to believe. If we buy into this narrative, we are convinced what transpired is detrimental to our future. Our wounds are pivotal turning points which can reveal a greater depth of our human nature. They are helpful for better understanding pain and suffering so as to integrate them into our being.
I am drawn to Dr. Alex Lickerman’s perspective who writes in The Undefeated Mind: On the Science of Constructing an Indestructible Self of the need to change the narrative of the past by witnessing it through the eyes of survivorship instead of victimhood: “Another way we might be able to improve our ability to manage pain is by retelling ourselves stories of previous painful experiences from a different perspective: not with a focus on the intensity of the pain we felt but on the fact we survived it. For if we survived a terrible episode of pain in the past, we can survive a similar episode of it in the present.”
You are no more flawed by what took place than an oak tree that has weathered the storm over time. In fact, if you were to get up close you would realise how strong and resilient the tree is despite the forces of nature enacted upon it. Yet, it still stands tall because what doesn’t break it allows it to grow in strength. The same principle is as apparent in our lives: what doesn’t destroy us, advances us more than we realise. A troubled past can be a blessing that gives us clues to our purpose and destiny. Our scars are our battle wounds and should not be looked upon with shame but with courage knowing we faced our battles and emerged stronger. A troubled past is a gateway to strengthening our resolve and commitment to a better future.
Our Past Needn’t Keep Us Stuck
“There is a fine balance between honouring the past and losing yourself in it. For example, you can acknowledge and learn from mistakes you made, and then move on and refocus on the now. It is called forgiving yourself.” — Eckhart Tolle
I experienced difficulties in my youth. I rebelled against authority figures like my father, whose parenting style didn’t suit me. I channelled my rebellious energy toward creative pursuits like painting murals on walls near train lines, so passengers travelling to work could see them. Thankfully, this phase of my life was short-lived and I grew out of it eventually. Upon reflection, this period served as a time to express my creativity, albeit in a nonconventional way. It was years later I was accepted into a Bachelor of Arts program to study Fashion Design at a prominent design school. Think about the periods of your own life where you may have rebelled. Do you look back and see how it now served you?
From my parent’s viewpoint, I was a troubled youth partaking in dangerous and meaningless acts, while I considered it a period of self-expression. Decade’s later here I am writing articles and books and helping people awaken their greatest potential because I dared to tap into my creative abilities. Whilst my story pales into insignificance compared to those who endured more troubling times, it shows how our past needn’t keep us stuck but help advance us. Our wounds show we have danced with life and emerged victorious. Recall Dr. Lickerman’s earlier quote where he invites us to see our troubles through the lens of a survivor instead of a victim? They are a reminder that life is continuously evolving and we mustn’t hang our hats on what transpired but use it as a basis for better things to come.
Life can lead you in different directions and as the narrator and director you get to choose which path to follow. Leading on from my earlier question, how have your experiences shaped your present-day circumstances? Do you consider the past with regret and shame? Whilst this may be normal, if we’re to appreciate the underlying lessons contained within our experiences, we can rewrite the future with a compelling narrative. We needn’t anchor our boats to the past but allow it to sail into the open waters. Just as a boat creates a wake in its trail, it does so behind it not in front, which means our future is open to being written with a clean slate, if we will look upon our wounds with openness and compassion.
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