If you’ve been ALIVE for any length of time, then you have pains. I’m talking about emotional pain. We all carry some “baggage” from our past – things we’ve said and done, or the things that others have said or done to us. It hurts bad. Or maybe we’ve become numb to the pain and we just kind of exist with it, like a prisoner on a life sentence with no chance for parole. Such pains are impossible to forget and seemingly impossible to get past. There is a desire to “get over it,” move on, and no longer allow the past pain to affect our attitude, outlook, and behavior today, but it’s hard. Are you nodding your head with me?
So how do you get over the past? The million dollar question has a pretty simple answer. Simple, but not easy. The first step is to realize what you’re REALLY trying to accomplish. What does it REALLY mean to get over the past?
You can’t change what happened. There’s no time machine that can send you back to relive the past. What’s done is done.
Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that your situation is hopeless. What I’m saying is that you first have to be clear about what you can and cannot change. You CAN get over your past (as I’ll explain). But you can NOT change events that already occurred.
The good news is that you don’t have to change the past in order to get over it. What you have to change is the MEANING of the past.
Think for a moment. Was there ever a time in your life when something horrible happened and you thought, “Why is this happening to me?” But then a few years later you looked back and you could answer that question. In retrospect, you understood why it happened. At first, it seemed like the world was caving in. Later, it all made sense.
In fact, very often, we eventually realize that bad times are part of a process that leads to something good!
It’s the events that FOLLOW bad times that determine the ultimate meaning of those times. In other words, it’s your future that determines your past; not the other way around. And since YOU are in charge of your future, then YOU determine the meaning of your past.
It’s interesting to think about this in the context of an age-old question: Do we have free choice or is everything predetermined? The answer is YES. Everything is predetermined AND we have free choice.
It’s like when you play a card game. You get dealt a hand. And you have no control over the cards you get dealt. It’s predetermined.
But you also get to play that hand. You also have free choice.
Ultimately, it’s the COMBINATION of the hand you’re dealt and the way you play it that determines the outcome. And it’s the outcome that shapes your view of the original hand you were dealt.
God deals you a hand. There’s nothing you can do to change that. But you get to play that hand. You get to respond to the events of your life. And it’s your response, your actions in the future, which determine the meaning of the events in your past.
So how do you get over the past? You don’t have to get over the past. The past is over! What’s important is the MEANING the past has for you NOW. And the MEANING of your past is determined by your actions in the future.
The people who have the best lives/ marriages/ relationships are people who went through hell in some way. They “got over” their past because they used it as a catalyst to IMPROVE their situation. In other words, the painful events inspired them to change themselves.
If you make the right moves, you will come to view certain events as birth pains that led to a new AND IMPROVED life/ marriage/ relationship. THAT’S how you “get over” the past.
It’s strange how life works sometimes, but if you play your hand right, your hurts become part of your healing. And, in fact, when it comes to relationships, it’s usually bad times that awaken people to search for new ways.
Thanks to Mort Fertel for doing the heavy lifting on this article. I’m grateful for his insight on the illustration about the cards we are dealt.