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Embrace Your Past
Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.: Mon, Aug 26th 2013
A classic misconception of mindfulness and psychotherapy is that the focus is solely on the present and we don’t have to review or reflect on the past. The reality is the past informs our present perceptions and snap judgments that are made about ourselves, other people and situations. This then creates consequences, so our past informs the consequences of this moment and the future. Therefore, it’s critical to become aware of our history and the way it shapes who we are. I would even go as far as to say, it’s important to embrace it.
One of the most powerful interventions that is fairly consistent with many people who have experienced wounding at some age of their life has to do with learning how to embrace the wounded part. When I was six years old my parents got divorced and my world was shattered. I had no idea how to process that at that age and so I just shut down emotionally or at times became angry. The grief and confusion was obviously too much for my nervous system to handle and so a coping mechanism was put into place.
Some of my greatest healing came with looking back on my life and seeing that confused and angry little boy. Actually picturing him in my mind and seeing if I could contact those feelings. In the moment I saw that confused and angry little boy I could sense into what he needed and it was for someone to embrace him, hold him and give him a sense that things were going to be okay.
This was the exact opposite action that my brain had been trying to do during difficult emotional moments. It wanted to get away from the feeling and that just caused me to feel shut down and stuck. While that may be a form of coping, there’s no healing in that.
So I visualized doing exactly that and my nervous system began to settle down. I could feel the grief and the love simultaneously and there was peace to it.
Learning how to embrace our past wounds helps reveal their gifts. For me the gift was self-compassion and to trust myself that I can be authentic and be okay. I doubt I’ll kick myself years from now for revealing those gifts.
It takes the courage to allow ourselves to be vulnerable to reveal these gifts, but maybe that’s why we’re here.
What would it be like to embrace your wounds in this way, what might be different.
As always, please share your thoughts, stories and questions below. Your interaction creates a living wisdom for us all to benefit from.