No Matter How Often You Revisit The Past, You Will Never Find Something New

Repressed Emotions

“We are made wise not by the recollection of our past, but by the responsibility for our future.”—George Bernard Shaw

Do you have a sentimental view of the past or is it mixed with guilt and regret? Contemplate the question because it will give you a glimpse into whether you are living with remorse or inspiration. Anger can be a toxic emotion, if not dealt with because it weaves its way into our psyche and manifests as physiological symptoms including pain. I remember many years ago working with a female client who experienced unexplained back pain that lasted several years or more. Samantha had recently retired and arrived to our session with debilitating back pain, having explored all other options other than surgery.

Whilst most medical professionals offered their expert advice to ease her symptoms, I got the sense that her pain wasn’t physically related but attributed to repressed emotions. She was holding on to anger and anxiety, which according to Dr. John Sarno is called TMS Tension Myositis Syndrome which I describe in my book, The Power To Navigate Life. She was stuck in the past, holding onto unresolved anger and anxiety which had manifested as lower back pain. I realise such a claim can be met with disbelief, however Samantha consulted with numerous specialist doctors, neurosurgeons and orthopaedic surgeons who could not find any evidence of why she was in pain.

During our work together, I helped her explore the role of repressed emotions and suggested there may be a link to her back pain. I was careful not to diagnosis her issue but open the door so she could explore it further; which she was happy to do. Working with a clinical psychologist trained in somatic awareness alongside physical therapy, Samantha overcame her back pain and was able to make peace with the past. Sometimes, we can hold on tightly to the past that it blemishes the aliveness of the present moment. We continue to revisit painful memories or in the case of Samantha, her repressed emotions manifested as back pain. It wasn’t until she revisited and healed the memories of her past that she overcame her physical pain.

Avoid Revisiting The Past

“Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment.”—Buddha

Let me be clear: not all repressed emotions lead to pain in the body. Depending on the intensity of the emotions and how long we’ve been holding on to them, they may or may not show up as pain, illness or disease. The body is intelligent and will do whatever is necessary to keep us safe. Storing pain, is the body’s way of drawing our awareness to something that requires self-examination and healing. It’s often said, the past is a figment of our imagination because it no longer exists. If we replay memories of: guilt, regret or anxiety, they will occupy space in our mind and body until we perceive them differently. This requires courage and faith, to look back on what is sometimes painful experiences. I’m drawn to author and psychologist Robert Holden’s message in Authentic Success in which he writes: “The future cannot be any different from the past if a person will not let the past go. Basically put, shame holds you back and forgiveness takes you forward.”

Perhaps we misinterpreted the events of the past and in the meantime we’re holding on to broken memories that no longer serve us. Can you identify with this? For example, have you had a discussion with your significant other on how you first met? I chuckle when a couple recounts their first meeting because each remembers the encounter differently. This underscores how our memories are different and why we must be respectful of one another’s past. We must avoid revisiting the past because it steals away from the present moment. It is impossible to find something new in the past, however we can look upon it with forgiveness and compassion. Forgiveness means forgiving oneself for being a co-creator of the experience but also forgiving the other party or the situation.

Whilst we cannot change nor erase the past, we can look upon it differently and rewrite a new memory of our experience. We become like the couple described earlier and consider the past through two distinct lenses while bringing forgiveness and compassion to the experience. Spiritual author Matt Kahn reaffirms this message in Everything Is Here to Help You: A Loving Guide to Your Soul’s Evolution: “When rooted in welcoming, we are forgiving of the past by allowing each person and circumstance to be welcomed as a brand-new encounter of growth and expansion.” It matters little whether you are carrying painful memories. It is your willingness to see them through the eyes of compassion and forgiveness in order write a new story. In doing so, you heal the past and leave it where it ought to stay; behind you.

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