you are not your past

“You cannot find yourself by going into the past.  You find yourself by coming into the present”

~Eckhart Tolle

In coaching, therapy or counselling we are often learning to understand the past, to understand what has happened to us and how its effects impact us today.  Traumatic or difficult past experiences can leave us feeling afraid to move forwards in positive, healthy ways in our lives, often crystallising into limiting beliefs or a negative self image.  This can have a powerful negative impact on our ability to feel fulfilled in our relationships and career, with our body image, sense of purpose or our general sense of well being.  There is great value in exploring and understanding our past pain but, as we move forwards on our healing path, the time will come when we shift the centre of our sense of self away from the past and into the present.

This is not to deny that past events have happened but it is not these past events that cause us to suffer today, the past is not here and now doing anything to us, these events are not happening now.  It is our relationship to the narrative we call the past, a narrative we really only experience in the present moment that prevents us from moving forwards in life.  This is the key to undoing our present suffering stemming from past events for it shows us that the potential for healing lies here and now, within our own minds and nowhere else.  This is the key to reclaiming our power for self determination.

The true work of healing lies in clearly seeing that we are living in the present through the identity our past story gives us.  It is not the events of the past themselves that give it power over us but it is our identification with our painful narrative and the self that it tells us we are that leads us to repeat its mantra time and again.  This is a powerful realisation for if we simply were defined by the past and powerless to change its effect upon us, we would be forever fated to exist as the shadow cast by our history.  You can transcend your past for your power does not lie there, it lies in the present moment, in your ability to choose, here and now, the vision of yourself, the narrative you choose to live.

The moment we see clearly that the past exists only as something that we do to ourselves in the present is the moment we realise it does not define us and never truly did.  The thought that it did was our belief that we did not have the power to take responsibility for our self image in the present, the belief that we could not be free here and joyful now.  This is not about blame, it is about understanding, it is saying that only you can define your self.

Holding onto our conflicted narrative does not make us wrong but it does cause us to suffer.  It is important to be clear here that we are not rejecting or denying the past.  Past events will always be a part of our understanding of who we are.  The key is in taking back ownership of and empowering ourselves to reclaim the past and construct a new narrative from it that supports and serves our well being and fulfilment as we move forward in life.  Exploring how we can reclaim this narrative is a process of growth in awareness, of understanding that the key to release from the past lies in working with our present perception and it is a process that requires respect, patience, trust and compassion.

This taking ownership of the narrative that tells us who we are begins to unravel the past’s hold on us, we begin to live more fully in in an empowered way in the present, we become freer as we learn to see ourselves anew.  This work can be done alone and for some it happens naturally as they grow in awareness but for many the support and guidance of a trained therapist or life coach is highly beneficial, if not necessary,  and can often help accelerate the progress of a person ready to move forwards.  It’s a process that takes time and trust in your own or another’s ability to guide you through it.   However it is approached, it is important to respect your own readiness to address certain issues and to hold the self gently as this often challenging work is undertaken.  It is also important to remember that there is no timetable or schedule for this work, it unfolds one step at a time and when we are ready the next step will emerge.  Each person’s journey is different.

Past trauma must be given time, acknowledgement, space and respect.  Yet as we grow in awareness we begin to see that we have the power to define ourselves independently of our old painful narratives, to no longer be defined by our traumas but to define ourselves through our ability to grow, learn and heal from them.   We begin to integrate the lessons, the strength and the positive truth about ourselves that our experience of the past has taught us while letting go of those perceptions that diminish, limit and invalidate our idea of self.

Beginning this journey is really the commitment to reclaim your power and to take responsibility for your perception, experience and understanding of yourself in the present.  Ultimately, the person you think you are exists only in your own mind.  When you are ready to see yourself as you truly are, you will see yourself as you truly are.  When you are ready to release yourself from the shadow of the past you will step forwards towards the positive truth and power of your self in the here and now.