Forgiving Our Past: Key to Unlocking a Joyful PresentNovember 28th, 2007 by John Wolfe
One of the concepts I initially found challenging about living more in tune with the creative abilities of my emotions was the idea of letting go of past anger, regrets, and disappointment. However, it’s essential we do this if we wish to continue seeing an emotional evolution within ourselves. This evolution will immediately begin showing up on the exterior of our life experience as well. It’s a win-win situation. Not only will we feel better, but we also will begin to live happier lives that are more in tune with the underlying purpose of why we’re here. Once this becomes our predominant state of being- anything we desire becomes achievable because we will have unlocked one of the true keys to ultimate joy- the unflappable belief in ourselves!
When we harbor ill will and hurtful feelings towards others, due to past circumstances and events, we are speaking volumes about the doubt and disbelief we have about our own life experience and our own abilities. If we were truly in a secure place of joy and happiness, the behavior of other people, no matter how much it seems to impact us, could never affect what we are presently feeling, thinking and living- at least not for any length of time.
Ever since my childhood I’ve been a pretty obsessive compulsive person, so it’s taken extra effort to make peace with anything from my past (this is an ongoing process), which I tended to obsess over. Because of this, I didn’t make any large strides for years in the evolution of understanding my own emotional power. I primarily yo-yoed back and forth between the same set of disempowering feelings; these usually followed a pattern of depression to resentment and back again. I was not directing my emotions and thoughts toward better feeling ideas and I continued to retain many angry and bitter feelings about experiences from my past.
I’ve reached an understanding that the entire spectrum of events during my lifetime has served me well. While many, as they were occurring, were not necessarily enjoyable, they all have brought me to the culmination of my current life experience (which I’m extremely happy about). I know without these past experiences, I would not be the individual I am presently. They also have been responsible for hewing out a clearer vision of exactly how I want my life to unfold. Without encountering those things, which were less enjoyable, I would have no clue of what I wish to pursue and experience.
As I dwell upon these types of thoughts, it tends to relax any tension I may have had about the past. This relaxation places me in a better mind set and this better feeling mind set continues to pre-pave my future experiences with more desirable circumstances.
While my above description for feeling better is somewhat broad, many times staying general in our approach and working towards anything which self soothes will help. However, there may be times we need to get a little more specific about ways in which we can relieve emotionally hung turmoil from our past.
Specificity is important if we notice undesirable patterns and trends developing within our thought processes again and again. If a similar idea attached to a strong emotion continues to well up within us, then it may serve us to explore within these feelings. Once inside, we need to feel for ways to relax the hold they have over us.
The positive in all of this is that we created these thoughts and emotions; so we also have the ability to undo them. Whenever I approach something in this manner it doesn’t always initially work, but it has helped me overcome many past psychological and emotional obstacles.
These repetitive, undesirable thoughts and emotions are indicators that we have developed resistance around a specific subject, which is exactly why the subject and the feelings associated with it continue to make their presence known. Remember, whatever we feel intense emotion (good or bad) about will continue to replicate itself in our life experience.
The first step in this process is letting ourselves off the hook for feeling this way. It’s extremely common to get hung up on past hurt and devastation. I’m a firm believer in honoring our emotions and not covering them up. They’re there for a reason- primarily to highlight specific patterns in our thought processes.
These are the subtle tip offs about what we are projecting outward and in turn drawing back to ourselves. We allow many old experiences to color our vision and our interpretation of both present and future events, often times without our realizing just how conditioned we’ve become at doing so.
I’ll use an example from my life to illustrate what I mean:
Many years ago I was heavily involved in a relationship that was filled with a lot of hurtful interactions. I cared very deeply about this person, and while there were good times during the relationship- I chose to keep my attention upon the undesirable for quite some time after our break up. Because of the strong emotions and “loyalty” I invested for several years into the relationship, I initially felt justified in carrying around anger and resentment. After a while these feelings began to subside, however I could feel an activation of them, to different extents, when I would see or hear things that reminded me of her.
Never once did I try and take my emotional power back during the activation of these feelings. I simply reacted strongly to the environmental stimulus and allowed myself to reside in these emotions without making a conscious decision to work towards that which felt better.
At this time in my life I was completely unaware of the ability of my thoughts, coupled with my emotions, to influence my reality and I certainly wasn’t willing to acknowledge responsibility for all of the outcomes within my life. Because of my lack of knowledge and my disregard for the innate ability we all have to go towards that which feels better, I formed patterns of thought around certain circumstances and events that continued to cause recall of past memories.
While this is only one small example from my life, I could probably take this outcome and multiply it across all of the other major events I felt turned out in a negative manner. You can easily see how undesirable circumstances from our past (if we hold onto them) can negatively impact our present and will continue to impact our future, unless we invest the time and work by taking back our emotional power.
Once I began understanding the concept of our thoughts creating our reality, I realized that I have the ability to alter my feelings (that used to feel so ingrained) about the past. And for all intents and purposes this is actually equivalent to altering the past (at a level of thought), when we consider that our emotional output is responsible for our reality.
Using the example of my relationship:
Each and every time a negative emotion or memory would arise; I began envisioning something that was fun or beneficial during the times we were together. I really tried to feel those joyful feelings. By doing this I became more pro-active in my thinking and feeling and quit allowing my thoughts to think for me. In my consistency of finding thoughts that felt better, I began to reinvent my feelings towards her and how I filed those past memories. Did I completely erase the past hurt? No. But I did succeed in deactivating it from triggering within my thoughts and emotions. In my opinion that’s almost the same as erasure of the hurt.
As time went on I realized that whatever I was wishing for others is also an internal indicator of what I’m actually thinking and wishing (whether I consciously understood it or not) for myself. The more I replaced those negative emotions with positive ones; I began to see my old relationship in a new light. I started giving my ex-girlfriend the benefit of the doubt and also forgave myself for all the should have, could have, would have’s. This in turn helped my self-esteem.
The interesting thing that happened after forgiving her and restoring my power around this set of events is that many other unrelated prior circumstances (which I was still holding onto) seemed to lighten up as well. They lost their heavy, thick feeling and I was able to view them in a lighter manner.
I do want to clarify as we take our emotional power back, it doesn’t mean we actually must confront someone from our past. This is akin to enrolling ourselves in a personal form of AA and taking the steps. The important thing is that we make an internal amends. If you feel better by contacting the individual, then that’s a personal call. But a caveat about such a decision- they may not be in the same emotional place you are about the subject. That’s why it’s about taking your own emotional power back by forgiving the past. We each create our own reality. They can’t influence yours unless you give them that ability by relinquishing control over your feelings and thoughts and vice a versa.
The important thing to understand in all of this is that it’s always about doing that which provides the best feeling response you can feel from your current point of view. Anger or resentment may feel far more empowering for a while (especially if the wounds are fresh) and that’s fine (remember to honor those emotions) but we must eventually move beyond any stagnation or else we relinquish our movement within the natural flow of our lives. As we stagnate, we cut off the vitality along with the manifestations of our desires.
This is why I believe that forgiving our past is one of the most important keys to accessing a joyful present.
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