Being stuck in the past has depleted my energy over the past few years. For so long I have latched onto the shame I felt from my own mistakes, as well as other people's wrongdoings. Whenever I would think about these mistakes, the same bouts of inner shame would hit me. It seemed as if I could never move on from my pain and enter a better place.
The guilt and remorse I felt from thinking back to these painful events would drain me so much, but were strangely addicting to think back to — it became a bad habit. When I would reflect on the past, I would not feel a warm rush of nostalgia like most people typically do, I would feel a cold rush of remorse. This became familiar, and when I didn't experience this rush, everything felt uncomfortable. I hated letting go mainly because I felt uncomfortable not dwelling in the past. I felt uncomfortable forgiving others, but more importantly, forgiving myself. The way I had viewed the past became habitual and routine. I was under the illusion I had no control over the way I handled it.
However, once I realized I could handle the way I perceived the past in a more constructive way, everything changed.
I remember the first time I approached hurtful memories in a new, productive way. For the first time, I didn't obsess over how the painful events made me feel. I focused on those who had pained me and analyzed why they did what they did in a new, empathetic way. I put myself into their perspectives for the first time. I thought about what I would do if I were them, and what made them treat me in those ways. I did not put the blame on myself, as I often did when looking back at the past. I blamed their situations, and their own obstacles they were facing at the time. I chose to forgive them, which I never could do before. This, in turn, made me able to forgive myself and no longer define myself by these mistakes.
I feel much freer now that I realize how much control I have over the way I think (not just when it comes to the past, but with everything). Even if I don't have much control over how my life goes, I do have control over one thing: my thoughts. Since I have learned how to have more positive thoughts, I now feel more positive emotions and am a much more positive person as a result.
As one of my favorite authors, Elizabeth Gilbert says, "Your emotions are the slaves to your thoughts, and you are the slave to your emotions." It sure is hard changing your thinking patterns, but if you can change the way you think/approach at least one thing, you will find yourself feeling much better as a result — please take my word for it.