The past can often bring up painful memories and difficult emotions which can affect our future and our entire life. Letting the past go can be very challenging mostly because of unresolved issues.
However, remembering the past is not what causes us pain & suffering, and ties us to different negative thoughts and emotions. It is our inability to detach from the attachment to that past which keeps us from finding freedom and happiness. Mindfulness can help us learn how to let go of the past, the traumatic memories and the attachments related to it by bringing our focus to the present moment and appreciating what we have right now.
“No one outside ourselves can rule us inwardly. When we know this, we become free.” – Buddha
Many of us have painful memories that we would rather forget – a difficult childhood, painful relationship, or traumatic event. We usually find ways to avoid thinking about them, so we don’t relive the painful emotions.
The reason they continue to cause us pain and suffering is that they remain unresolved. They fester in our subconscious mind, and manifest themselves daily in our attitudes and actions, and therefore, our relationships.
At the same time, we want to live happy and fulfilling lives. However, as long as these issues remain unresolved, we will never find freedom from our suffering, or realize the peace and happiness we’re searching for.
Here we’re going to look at how the mindfulness practice can help you overcome your painful past. But first, we’ll discuss some of the sources of our painful memories, things we do to avoid them, and their cost.
Sources of Painful Memories
“Be careful who you make memories with. Those things can last a lifetime.” – Ugo Eze
There are various sources of painful memories. The main ones are our relationships with our parents, romantic relationships, and traumatic events.
Many of us have strained relationships with our parents. We often feel like they didn’t give us some of the things we needed, such as love, attention, or financial support. Maybe they were neglectful, or even abusive. Whatever the case, we carry many of these painful childhood memories through much of our lives.
If we didn’t have good relationships with our parents, then chances are that our romantic relationships didn’t go much better. If our parents don’t teach us how to have healthy relationships, then we simply bring our lack of coping skills into all our subsequent relationships.
When we don’t get what we feel we need from our parents, we tend to expect those things from our partners. Sometimes we place unreasonable expectations on our partner, which are difficult for him/her to meet. This is where the power struggle begins.
Some of us may have experienced a traumatic event that we never fully dealt with. Some examples are verbal and physical abuse, sexual abuse, or even an accident. These can have long-lasting effects, especially if we haven’t sought professional help, or developed good coping skills.
Things We Do to Avoid Painful Memories
“Memories are dangerous things. You turn them over and over until you know every touch and corner, but still, you’ll find an edge to cut you.” – Mark Lawrence
It’s natural for us to want to avoid painful memories, especially if we haven’t yet learned how to deal with them. In such cases, we may feel powerless to do anything about them.
If someone else is the cause of our pain and suffering, then we may expect them to rectify the situation. But this is usually unrealistic. The person responsible may be far removed from our lives by time, distance, or their passing. They may also be unwilling.