I think that one of the most difficult things for a human being to do is overcome the past. Our past defines us, shapes us, and for the most part we carry these experiences for the rest of our lives. For better or worse. Just yesterday I attended an acting class where the instructor said that she sensed my tension and apprehension at following her directions. As part of an exercise, she wanted me to lay down on the floor, close my eyes, breathe, and relax. However, she could see that this was challenging for me. My shoulders were tense, I continued to fidget with my hands, and closing my eyes was a very difficult thing for me to do in that unknown environment. These are all side effects of my own past life experiences.
I grew up in the streets of the South Bronx, under the constant threat of random and often targeted violence. As such I developed a very high level of awareness, and relaxing translates into letting go of that awareness. Something which I am not too keen on doing, particularly when I am outside of my comfort zones. She insisted that I comply and I did my very best to relax. This is part of my own process at overcoming the past. As you can see, in my case it is still very much an ongoing process. Perhaps you feel the same way, and that is why you are here. With this article I will attempt to share some points that may help you on your own journey.
Acknowledge the past
In order to address or move on from any problems in life, we must first acknowledge that they exist. You have to look at your life and acknowledge that you are still struggling with something that happened in the past. For many of us this is not easy, particularly tough guys who grew up in the mean streets of the South Bronx. If you are really determined about moving on, first recognize that the past happened. Understand that it is the past, and contrary to what I said earlier it doesn’t have to define you. You get to choose who you are today, and you can leave the past in the past.
Writing has always been a major outlet for me. I still recall writing in a diary at a very young age. This continued on to my teenage years and evolved into poetry and music. During a particularly rough time during my teen years, I was attending counseling sessions. The way that my counselor and I communicated best was through my poetry. He found that I best expressed myself through writing and this became our primary means of communication. Here I am some 20 years later, and I still heavily rely on my writing and poetry as a means of coping with life and it’s challenges. Many poets that I know strongly credit their writing as the reason that they are still functional human beings, myself included.
One item that I still struggle with is being present in the moment. This is a topic that I have been covering since the infancy of the web. I still remember making youtube videos when it was a brand new fad, and one of my earliest video blogs was about “being present in the moment.” I’m not the only one either, many others have been sharing this kind of information for a long time as well! Our lives are so busy and so connected that we are often “not present.” Our bodies may be somewhere, but our minds are in 20 different places. This is not a good way to live and it robs you of the simple pleasure of just “being.” Practice mindfulness and focus on being present. One technique that I was taught was to put my feet flat on the ground, to focus on my feet being on the ground. Feel the ground beneath your feet and acknowledge that you are there at that moment. Simply placing your feet on the ground should provide you with some form of calm and relaxation.
One thing that I consider myself is a master of blocking things out. I am so good at shutting down that some people have perceived me as cold and cruel. The opposite is actually the truth. In fact, this is a common defense that sensitive people practice as a form of survival and self preservation. We feel so much, that things hurt that much more. However, you cannot truly let things go if all you do is bury and deny them. You have to allow yourself to go through the range of emotions, whatever they may be. Let them pass through you, feel them. Don’t deny yourself this or you will never truly move on. Trust me on this one, in some instances I am still working on this.
I mentioned earlier how writing was a form of therapy for me. Well, talking to someone can be just as valuable. There is one person whom I wish that I could speak with and gain some closure from. This opportunity has been denied to me for decades now. The person has gone on to become the topic of many a song that I have written, and only with the passage of time has the pain subsided. However, the true closure has not come since we have not been able to speak. One technique that I have implemented is talking to them on my own. Sure, this sounds like I am a crazy person, but a little crazy isn’t all that bad now is it? My father died, he’s gone, so there is no way that I will ever get the opportunity to talk to him. Even so, I still speak to my dad. I tell him through my soul that I miss him and that I wish we could actually talk again. I cry silently and I tell him that I know he did his best. If physically talking to the person is not an option, and a friend is not available, then be a little crazy with me and use this method. Just be aware of your thoughts and don’t listen to any odd statements!
Overcoming the past is not easy, and 1,001 people will give 1,001 ideas on how you can do it. Ultimately it is up to you to find your own way, but we hope that these ideas may help you on your journey.
Featured photo credit: Alan Cleaver via flickr.com