I've spent the last 25 years of my life working as a healthcare executive, growth coach, and trauma therapist. In all of my careers, I have worked with thousands of people, and have had the opportunity to study human behavior in many laboratories. In my clinical work and through my personal journey toward greater awareness, I've discovered that the majority of suffering resides in our understanding of the past.
I and others have spent enormous amounts of time trying to understand what the past represented and how it is influencing the present moment. When you think about it, most people have great shame, embarrassment, resentment, rage, sorrow, grief, and sadness because of something that has occurred in their past. Of course, our past is colored with experiences of joy and happiness, but for the most part, we tend to focus on our history from a negative viewpoint.
When we review our past, we believe that hindsight provides a perfect 20/20 vision. I think our 20/20 hindsight is entirely inaccurate because it is limited by the questions we ask ourselves and by the fact that we grow and evolve beyond who were previously were. When we judge our past, we look with criticism because we have evolved. This is much like an iPhone 10 being critical of an iPhone 4: the iPhone 10 is a better version.
In both my clinical and personal work, I have found that we ask black and white questions that are highly judgmental as we review the past. For instance, most of us ask, Has my life been easy or difficult? Has my life felt happy or sad? Has my life been meaningful or meaningless? What have I done right or wrong? Have I experienced love or suffering? The answers to these questions are terribly limited and serve as the foundation for shame and sorrow. These black and white questions don't give us a full picture of who we were and what our past truly represents.
From my vantage point, I believe that our past is nothing more than a record of our own personal evolution: it is a record of history. Our past houses the memories of joy, sorrow, struggle, success, and a host of other feelings.
How do you view your past?
I developed an exercise that allowed me to review the past more comprehensively with a desire for a deeper understanding of who I am in the present moment. If you are interested in taking your own exploratory journey into the recesses of your past, I invite you to do this exercise.
Remember, when we comprehensively understand who we were, we can begin to embrace who we have become. We can celebrate the journey rather than be mired in the muck of our painful memories. We can start to create the lives we desire and deserve. We learn to live our authentic truth.
Make a timeline of your life and separate it into different periods. Look at your childhood, your teen years, 20s, 30s, 40s, and so on. By looking at our lives in decades, we can see the personal growth we have achieved far more clearly. Evaluating our lives based on certain periods allows us to clearly understand who we are in the present moment and not be bogged down by the black and white thinking that most of us use during the evaluation of our past.
Grab your journal and ask yourself these powerful questions:
Who was I? What was my life like? What did I do for fun? Who did I spend time with? What was my sex life like? How did I relate to others? What did I do in my free time? Did I have any creative outlets? When I was alone, what did I think most about? What did I enjoy doing? Who did I trust and confide in? What did I share with my confidants? How did I emotionally feel most of the time? What did I worry most about? What did I talk about with others? How did I treat others? How did others relate to me? What affirmations did I say to myself? What were my priorities regarding others? What was I motivated by? What image did I present to the world? What were moments of joy and struggle? What was most significant about how others perceive me? What was I most proud of? What substances did I use, and why? What professional aspirations did I have? Did I laugh and experience happiness? What social aspirations did I hold? Did I treat myself with respect? Did others treat me with respect? How did I feel loved? What did love mean to me? What were my Visions for my future? What transitions, losses, or changes did I endure? Did I consider myself kind and compassionate? Did I obsess about anything, and if so, what? Who did I experience kindness and compassion from? Did I think of myself as capable and functional? How did I limit myself or self-sabotage? Did I feel worthy or unworthy? What experiences of shame or embarrassment did I have? Who was I in a relationship with, and how did that relationship feel? Did I act in my highest and greatest good? How did I connect with nature and others?
As you can see from the depth of these questions, they provide a much more robust perspective on who you were at a specific time in your evolutionary journey. Humans are the only species in all of nature that denies its own evolution, we believe that we live in a fixed reality and that we are static in our essence. I think this perspective is what causes us pain and frustration because we feel stuck. These questions offer the opportunity to see yourself more thoroughly. These questions also allow you to understand your motivations, fears, priorities, and areas of struggle. As you look at each of the various periods and the answers to these particular questions, you will begin to see that there are patterns that you have repeated decade after decade. These patterns are repeated because of subconscious core beliefs that reside deep within your mind. The process of asking these questions also reveal what's your core emotional subconscious wounds are and the sacred gifts you embody.
If you choose to journey into your past, I invite you to utilize the questions above instead of the black and white questions you are more accustomed to. I can assure you, these questions will give you a much more comprehensive understanding of your dynamic nature, and they will also reveal a tremendous process of growth you have undergone. To step into the present moment, you must reconcile yourself with the stories of your past and learn how to create life in real-time. Finally, this exercise will give you a clear understanding of the limiting subconscious stories from which you must liberate yourself.
When we understand ourselves more comprehensively, we can step entirely out of fear, anxiety, and shame. We begin to create the lives we truly deserve.
I think the journey begins with the right questions!
Holler at me if you are interested in a guided journey of personal discovery. I am taking new client now! firstname.lastname@example.org