In the quiet moments of my life, when the world around me has seemingly slowed to a crawl, I look back. I retreat to the protection and comfort of my inner thoughts where my head is often swimming with memories like full-color Polaroid prints. Those days, things, experiences, places and people that take over when I put my mind on rewind conjure up countless images – some are pleasurable and bring a smile to my face, others flood me with self-reproach, a few surround me in an air of melancholy, and then there are those that wash over me like an unwelcome torrent of cold rain.
The latter encompasses those moments in life when I took a wrong turn, made an unwise decision or did anything that filled me with a sense of dread, the blush of guilt or the heat of shame. I used to regularly castigate myself for my past lapses in judgment—the ones that led to the feelings of dread, guilt or shame. It was, I reasoned, no one else’s fault that I was feeling this way and I freely accepted the blame.
Then I had an epiphany of sorts. While I loved reliving the past, I realized I couldn’t take up residence there. My future was ahead of me, not behind me. Sure, along with many other factors in life, my past helped to shape the woman that I have become today. However, when I expend my time and energy lamenting the bygone days and the choices that were made during that time – my ‘woe is me’ stage – it’s time squandered, and that deprivation can suck the life out of my present and future.
When we remove ourselves from the present and take a walk down that nostalgic path in our heads, we lose ourselves in the past. We’re caught up in a swell of emotions that takes us from good to bad, but sometimes we can get locked into these moments for too long. Those rose-colored glasses through which we’re viewing our prior lives can lead to comparing the past with the present . . . and we may find that we have a fondness for those earlier days over the here and now.
Writing for Psychology Today, Marina Krakovsky—citing University of California at Riverside psychologist Sonja Lyubomirsky—discusses the reality of reminiscing and how it can actually be detrimental.
But it needn’t be that way. “It’s what you focus on,” says Lyubomirsky. “Do you focus on how positive it was then, or that it’s over now?” People who see each good experience as permanently enriching are more likely to get a mood boost. But a person who mainly focuses on the contrast between past and present damns every good experience with the attitude that nothing in the future can ever live up to it.
Never revisit the past to avoid the present.
Keep in mind: over time, new experiences turn into past experiences. It is important to move forward in life . . . to continue creating new experiences and making new memories. So go ahead, feel free to take a look back. Just don’t stay there for too long.
♦ ♦ ♦
Women’s Life & Empowerment Coaching focuses on your present to help you live a better future. Shall we walk that path together?