Education

Dr. Ayesha Hunter – Your Past Catching Up with You and Is Ever Present

When your past catches up with you, what does it look like? Exactly what am I referring to? It’s about past mistakes, negative experiences, such as traumatic ones. Or even those experiences that were not your fault, but somehow you were involved. I speculate that this topic could influence a lot people. I trust that it does.

The past is an interesting concept. For many people who live in it, it can be debilitating. The past haunts and keeps people in a sort of ‘mental prison’. Time and time again, I see the pain this causes. When people can’t seem to live in the present moment, they dwell over and over again on what has already happened. It’s as if they are trying to play it out in their heads with a different ending. Or, they are trying to just make sense of what happened. They may think that if they think about it repeatedly, they can somehow magically change the outcome. Living in the past is a powerful act for the powerless. The delusion of rehashing the events in one’s mind gives a false sense of having some sort of control. But in reality, it truly ends up causing more pain, energy, restlessness, and suffering. In short, it does no good. Yet, people do it all the time despite the outcome.

There are many reasons people do this automatically. One of the reasons for this has to do with the way our brains are wired. According to neuroscience, we understand that when repetition occurs, the brain gets hard-wired into this pattern and it takes on a familiar way of operating that has been reinforced. Now, the brain begins to operate this way automatically because the neuron cells (cells in our nervous system that helps us to think, make decisions, and controls muscle movements) have established this routine of communicating with one another. In essence, when cells fire together, they wire together. So, the brain established this way of operating because it has been reinforced repeatedly. In other words, the brain has formed the habit of worrying and thinking about the past and it gets stuck doing so. Being hard-wired is like the process of being programmed. It’s like being programmed to dwell in the past.

Let me further elaborate by giving you a metaphor. Suppose you plan to go fishing and you walked up to a meadow that has very tall shades of grass. The grass is so tall, it’s about 4 feet tall. Now, suppose you need to get to the other side of the meadow in order to get to the river, but there is no sidewalk, no path anywhere to be seen. You make the decision to walk through the tall grass to get to the other side. The next day, you walk through the same path to get to that river to go fishing again. And you do it the following day and the next day. By now, a path had been created by you. This is like your neurons cells creating a path of communication in your brain by firing with one another in this pattern. By repetition, a passage way of communicating has been established. Now, a habit has been formed. In neuroscience, this is due to what scientists and researchers call, neuroplasticity. The good news is that our brains can be rewired and new, more healthier behaviors can be established. Our brains are that flexible and adaptable.

The past catches up with you when you can’t seem to let it go. Making peace with your past can become your best ally. Imagine no longer having to chase what has happened already, because you now have a better understanding of it. Why would you have to revisit what you’ve made peace with? That’s the point, you wouldn’t have to. You wouldn’t have to have the past catch up with you because you’ve resolved what it meant to experience what you’ve experienced. No further need to keep looking back and living in the past, trying to make sense of it. It is finished.

The question remains: How does one make peace with the past? There are different ways to rewire the brain. Making a conscious decision to do something about your situation is a must. Being determined and motivated can be of great support. One thing is for sure, having faith and belief in a higher power is truly beneficial in dealing with this behavior. I know for me, that had I not have a relationship with my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, I would still be a slave to my past. Due to embracing the essence of what my faith believes, I understand that … “but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead. I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:12).
Another interesting perspective involves the understanding that our past doesn’t have to be in vain. Since our past has been established as a part of who we have become, we can therefore grow from it as we embrace it. When we don’t embrace it, or accept what is, we fight against it. We don’t accept what happened. We desire a different outcome than the one we are dealing with now. Problem with this is that it actually causes more suffering. When people put up resistance, they constantly try to narrate a different outcome. Again, that’s that old magical thinking. No one will never find any comfort in doing it this way.

What could happen is that we can use those past experiences to help us become stronger, wiser, and can help to model and lead others. After all, we go through things that others may eventually go through too. We can warn, guide, and help others who are following after us. Our past doesn’t have to completely define us, but we can learn from it to become better people, leaders, and teachers. We can learn from those mistakes.

Without the battle, how will we know victory? How could we savor sweet defeat, becoming victorious without the struggle? THE STRUGGLE IS REAL, is what I jokingly say when I talk to people about issues and I identify with them how hard life can really be. We do have a choice to be a Victor, or a Victim. The choice is always yours, believe it or not.

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