Why You Should Not Let Your Past Make You Its Prisoner


How often do you look back at your past? And when you do what kind of emotions does it evoke? Do you look back remorsefully? Or do you draw strength and inspiration from all that you have endured and overcome?

Our relationship with our past is responsible for setting the tone for all the other relationships in our lives, including the one with ourselves. If our past still infuriates us, then we are essentially its captives, which holds us back from reaching our highest potential. To reclaim our power, it is not just important to make peace with our past but also to make it our ally.

It took me years to finally establish a healthy relationship with it. My past is ridden with incidents that even though strengthened me in the long run, caused me immense embarrassment when they actually took place. For years after those incidents, recalling them without cringing required herculean effort, and choosing to push them into the deep, dark crevices of my mind seemed like an easier way out, one that didn’t require me to be consumed by the apparent embarrassment.

But, our mind has a weird way of playing tricks on us, bringing instances of sheer pain and embarrassment to the forefront, if left unattended. For instance, I had once participated in an inter-class extempore competition, possibly in the 4th or 5th grade. I remember being well-prepared and confident. However, as soon as I took to the stage, as though by some unknown force of nature, I froze. I tried to speak but all that came out was incoherent gibberish. The 10 year old me was mortified and such was the extent of my embarrassment that for years after it, I could never bring myself to speak in public again. I carried it around like a weight that refuses to be shed, punishing myself for a deplorable sin that I had committed, so to speak.

In retrospect, I realize I was far too harsh with myself than was required, replaying the incident over and over in my head, and reliving it each time with more intensity. It was only years later when I, as a teacher for a short stint, became comfortable with public speaking again.

This is only one incident, but there are several others where I let my past dictate the terms of how I choose to live my life. Every time something piqued my interest, instead of trying it out first-hand, I would let my past fool me into believing that I am not worthy of it. This coupled with my fear of failing often trapped me in a tailspin of negativity that I struggled hard to free myself of, for as long as I can remember.

But, over the years, through conscious mindfulness and practicing healthy ways of channelizing negative emotions, I have not just managed to make peace with my past but also learnt to look upon it as my strongest armour – something that taught me my toughest lessons.

In essence, the past is a dirty liar that convinces you that things were worse than they actually were. But, they were not. Whatever you endured – pain, setback, deceit or heartbreak, it was not as bad as the past makes it look like.

To get over the conditioning that your past has been acclimating you to might sometimes take years, especially if you have an unhealthy relationship with it, but it is worth the effort. And so, it becomes all the more important to get out of the clutches of the negativity associated with it.

Revisit your past, but not regretfully. Listen to what it has to say but do not let it fool you. See things as they were. Learn to discern between what is authentic and what is just a figment of your imagination. For if you learn to do it and master your past, you are one step closer to living a truly free life.

On that note, I leave you with the below quote-

“We are products of our past, but we don’t have to be prisoners of it.”
Rick Warren

6 thoughts on “Why You Should Not Let Your Past Make You Its Prisoner

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  1. I’m thankful that I’m not a hostage of my past, but I definitely still get those moments where your brain conjures up a random, embarrassing past event and you just spend the next five minutes cringing.

    But yes, this article is a great reminder to live the moment. Thanks for writing this Trisha!

    1. I can relate with what you said. I am guilty of rehashing unpleasant incidents over in my head too. But, I have observed that if we consciously choose to detach from the negative emotion associated with the memory, say for instance-pain, and instead choose to focus on what exactly happened, the memory begins to lose its power. Try doing that, maybe?

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