Positive emotions: Finding a balance between the past and now

What you experienced in the past influenced where you are in life now; that’s undeniable. However, staying too long back there, especially if it is a place that contains unhappy memories, can prevent you moving forward. At the same time, it’s sensible to learn from the past so you can grow, and recognizing how events made you feel prevents unhealthy repression. It seems there must be a place between the past and now where emotional balance exists.

When something traumatic happens, you can’t push someone out of the dark place in their mind until they are ready to stop grieving, which is why ‘sitting’ with how you feel and recognizing your emotions sometimes is all you can do. Nonetheless, whatever you think about for a long time becomes part of the present, and you can’t get away from it if you include it in the story of who you are in the moment. This is fine if you empower yourself by seeing yourself as a survivor, someone who got through a bad time and came out the other side. But, if you see yourself as a victim, which you have every right to do, you could be heading for trouble.

In a sense, we are all victims of our pasts, in as much that things happened to us that were beyond our control. It’s how we choose to deal with what happened though, which counts. If we decide to remain in the role of a victim, perhaps even labeling ourselves as such, we are disempowered; we’ve handed our power over to whoever or whatever harmed us in the past. Furthermore, we are allowing that memory to carry on taking our energy, and that’s not healthy.

How you describe yourself to others and in your head is important. There may be a time when you need to call yourself a victim, as you want acknowledgment that something was done to you, or you went through an experience that wasn’t your fault and you are in pain, and this could be part of your healing process. However, there comes a point, not when you need to ‘get over it,’ but when you need to shake yourself down and take charge of the present. Sit anywhere too long and you’ll get covered in dust, your bones will atrophy; you get the picture.

The problem with going over unhelpful memories, thus keeping them in the present, is that you become helpless. Learned helplessness isn’t a fairy tale, it’s a fact. If you remain in a state of fear for too long, you could unwittingly imagine that there’s nothing you can do about your situation. Adding to your angst will be a plummeting immune system and a state of hyperarousal, where you are constantly experiencing fight-or-flight. Just thinking about being a victim registers as being one in your body and brain. You will produce stress chemicals that make you unwell.

You’ll know if you’ve been sitting too long in a dark memory because you’ll find focusing on the present difficult. Everything you do will be tainted by the story you hold about who you are relating to the past. You might find that you think and talk about yourself in disempowering terms, depicting yourself as a casualty rather than a person who can cope. If this sounds like you, you can choose to begin thinking, and talking about yourself, in ways that show you as the person you want to become rather than who you were when you were afraid or sad. Doing so will shift your mind and dust you down, leaving you free to begin exploring the next chapter of your life instead of rereading the last.

References: http://www.education.com/reference/article/learned-helplessness/

http://www.britannica.com/topic/learned-helplessness

About bridget

bridget webber

Bridget Webber’s background rests in mental health, counselling, hypnotherapy, NLP and art. She brings knowledge from her experiences into her writing and specializes in emotional wellness and the creation of, rather than search for, joy. You can catch up with her insights and musings on Twitter.

Twitter: @InsightManager

One Reaction

  1. Angelina Claudio

    Very interesting article. Thanks!