I drove past a church the other day en route to Santa Cruz and the sign they had out front displayed this message: “Don’t dwell on the past because you’re not going back there.” That says it all to me. One of the hardest things for any of us not to do after a crisis or major change is to compare the way life was before with how it is now.
It’s perfectly okay and possibly necessary to do this comparing as we move through grief or deep loss. The time it takes to vent our anger and recover from despair can be different for all of us—and time can’t be forced because healing heartache doesn’t respond to schedules or agendas. Yet, in our own time, we will start to regain some stability and decide to move forward with our life. This was certainly true for me in a past crisis.
It’s a good idea to learn from history – we can get good perspectives about how to do better – and hindsight is 20/20, as they say. But if we dwell, we go around in circles and get caught in the snare of the past, we don’t focus on where we’re going and we can’t create the future we want. In fact, we may recreate what we don’t want. We stay in thought forms that are like carrying a heavy backpack of guilt, blame and other negative emotions. The past weighs a lot when there are unresolved issues and you’re the one paying that price.
When the present is more rewarding than the past, we don’t tend to hang out in the past, so creating more fulfillment in the present can help the healing. HeartMath founder Doc Childre told me how he did this. In a past personal crisis, eventually he realized that to move forward, he had to redirect his thoughts and feelings from the past situation that he couldn’t change in order to be at peace now and build the future. After an understandable period of grief, he started to realize that he was perpetuating deep pain and depression by constantly comparing now with the past. Often, his heart’s intuition would whisper: “Constantly comparing with the past is not helpful for you now. It’s time now to use that energy to move forward with your life.” It was hard at first, but being honest with himself, he knew it was time to take a responsible step towards reducing the emotional toll and inertia from dwelling in the past.