It is safe to say that I lived in different places. I’ve lived with roommates and I’ve lived with family. I used to live on a farm, which by now is more like something that happened in a different lifetime.
I’ve lived in big places and small. I’ve never lived anywhere outside of New York. I never had the chance to live in the City itself but I did live in Queens when I was very young. I lived there when I was in a relationship during my mid-20’s. There were good and bad about all places but out of all of them, the worst place I ever lived was in the past.
There is a famous quote by Henry David Thoreau which is:
“Never look back unless you’re planning to go that way.”
The truth is we are habitual creatures. We have habitual beliefs and habitual patterns. We have ideas and programs running in our mind like a computer that never shuts off — always thinking, always calculating, and always connecting one subject to another. We connect memory to the end product of emotion. We connect people and situations to the biases of either perception or misperception. We formulate assumptions and predictions and based on our internal narrative and deliberation, the jury in our mind convicts, condemns, accuses and or pardons the topics at hand.
We fall into our habits from the moment we wake up. As soon as we open our eyes we immediately fall into our habitual pattern, almost mindlessly, because our body is in auto-pilot. Our habits are formed throughout the years. Our body knows exactly what to do without having any input from the mind. We know what we reach for when we open our eyes. We sleep in a habitual way. We lay in a certain form and our body understands this as a means of comfort.
This is nothing new to us. People have been discussing subjects like this for a very long time; however, I think it is important to simplify this topic in a relatable way to help us understand the way we live and the way we can improve. This way we can understand the repetitious cycles of life, which may explain the age-old question of, “Why do things like this always happen to me?”
Living in the past is a link to everything that has happened to us. Whether this is a conversation with a friend or an employer, or if this is an intimate experience grading from the levels of deeper intimacy to surface level — regardless to the benefit, our connection to a memory is linked and tagged to a representation of opinion, emotion, and judgement.
Again, this is neither good or bad. This is simply a connection and designation of a file that we keep in our mental storage. This is where we begin to grow our subjects of association. This can be connected with the senses as well. Smells , sounds, sights, and the touch of something can create a connection. This leads us back to our old memory that we’ve kept in storage. This also may lead to a biased connection that does the old math from past equations and adds up to an opinion of what will happen next. This is part of living in the past.
Our responses link to these patterns. Why do people drink? Why do people smoke? Why do we do anything excessively? Why do we have any habits at all? The reason is to find comfort and/or make sense or cope with the actual happening of life.
Living in the past is based on the assumptions that all things are the same. This is the idea that the past can and will happen again. Yet, the truth is nothing is ever the same. Our life is different each day. Our bodies change on a daily basis. We change on a cellular level. Temperature changes. The winds are different. Nothing is ever exactly the same; yet our mind is set in a pattern of similarities which characterize our opinion and create our assumptions.
The struggle with the past is when the past is tied to an unfavorable emotion. This is especially tough when we have a memory or mark of shame. The struggle to let go is not because someone doesn’t want to be free or feel better. More accurately it is the fear. More accurately, the reason for the struggle is the tension from the past has remained unresolved, in which case the fear lingers and mutates to become even worse. The memory of the unresolved past is now shaded with the tones of guilt or regret and all the other shame-based ideas that lead us back to the ideas of rejection.
Unresolved pains linger this way because our mind is affected and does not ever want to feel this way again — so, we think of ways to protect ourselves. We create ways to prevent us from having past results ever happen again. But yet, they still happen.
Why is that?
We still have the unresolved tension. We create boundaries of defense and we base our assumptions (and jump to conclusions) because of biases of our past which believe that all things will be this same.
We find ourselves reliving and recreating old things and facing old tensions because we believe in them. If believe something is true — regardless to if what we believe is fact or fiction — then inevitably this will be true. If we think in a habitual pattern we will see our lives in the same habitual way.
We will say things like, “This is just me,” or “This is just who I am,” when the fact is this is only so because we believe this is true. If we believe that we are destined to be alone or destined to be unhappy then how could we possibly defy this?
Instead, our behaviors reflect our ideas and our emotions. Our behaviors reflect the remnants of our past, which we held in storage for so long that the facts of our past (regardless to whether they are relevant or not) have now become distorted because of the different shades from our opinion.
Our routine becomes the pattern; we wake up, we do our morning rituals. We push the same button on the coffee machine in a mindless way. We move through our morning on the basis of our routine connections which dictate and determine the flow of our day.
We leave our house at a certain time. We make it to work and we live our life according to at least some kind of a schedule — even if there is only the slightest schedule, like say, someone that does nothing else but lays on the couch and watches television all day — this is still a schedule because television programs or shown on a scheduled basis at a set time and station.
We are a compilation of patterns and programs that direct our beliefs and assumptions. This shapes our opinions. By living in the past, our mind has already mapped out the course of what will come next. This is all because of the connections we have to a subconscious program, and/or bias.
As I have told you, I have lived in different places. I have lived with friends and family. I have lived with girlfriends and an ex-wife. I lived in a big home. I lived in a small one. I even lived with a friend of mine when I was single for a while. (That was a lot of fun but even fun comes with regrets.)
I have lived through tumultuous times and in my past regressions, and out of all the places I’ve lived, the worst place to live is in the past.
The worst place to live was in my unresolved tensions. This is a place in the mind where we rehearse the old conversations and entertain them as if they were happening again. This affects our mood and our thinking, which lead us to the emotional output of what happened in the past; therefore, we live in the past because the tension is unresolved and no matter how many times we visit this memory, the past could not be re-litigated to a more agreeable status.
If we keep recalling an event or if we keep reliving an old argument or an old sense of rejection; we are bound to them and react to them.
Our experience tells us the mathematics of what happens. When “This” happens then “That” happens. This is our influence. This is our inspiration and motivation, which again, inspiration and motivation or neither positive or negative. Inspiration and motivation is simply the energy of drive and emotion combined to seek or elicit a response or result.
There are times when our thought patterns tie us to a prediction that does not happen; but yet, we have focused so deeply that we feel the emotion of our missed-prediction.
Ever predict a fight that never happened and this left you feeling on edge or unhappy. But yet, the fight wasn’t real or necessary. Instead, you had the fallout for no reason. You felt the emotion. Our body doesn’t understand the prediction has not happened. Our body only understands the chemical reactions and the changes in our chemistry. This is why we feel our emotional pains.
This is where anxiety comes in; our fear receptors overreact and we go into an emergency state of mind. We come into fight or flight mode, which is necessary. This is primal. This is what helped us to live through generations of dangerous predators. However, we are not meant to live in fight mode at all times. The stress from this is critical (and almost criminal) because try as we might, we just cannot seem to calm down or get away from ourselves, or better yet, we can’t find a place where we feel protected and free from guilt or shame, or above all, rejection.
How do we get away from this?
We have to update our thinking by replacing thought with action. We have to create new patterns, even if we struggle to believe in them, and by committing to each new day and each new endeavor, we can work on creating a plan and strategy to execute a brand new future.
It would be inaccurate to say that old pains will never resurface. Old thoughts resurface all the time; however, if we can learn to replace them with new actions and if we can learn to incorporate a new status of mindfulness, we can move away from our past. We can move away from our regrets to the point where our old tensions are just old tensions, and furthermore, they become nothing more than unobjectionable details of something that seems like it happened in another life.
I don’t ever want to live in the past. I wouldn’t mind revisiting a few old times but then again, when it comes to some of my old occasions, I am reminded of the old saying:
It’s a great place to visit. But I wouldn’t want to live.
Don’t be afraid to start something new.
Trust me, your past won’t miss you.