On getting over the past

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For some of us, moving on is an emotional muscle that needs developing. Some are born more emotionally resilient in that respect; they scrape their knee and throw on a bandage, only to run back to the activity that injured them. Others need careful coddling and coaching to be able to jump back into the ring.

All in all, I realized that I, for better or worse, was part of the coddling group. I hadn’t always been that way, but after years of accumulated emotional debris, I acknowledged that I hadn’t swept the floors of my psyche often enough. I had let it all pile up, and that resulted in a sort of paralyzing nostalgia.

And so, that is how I came to discover the antidote to the sometimes all-consuming episodes of reverie. We don’t often expect emotional healing – or “moving on” – to be an active, laborious task. But sometimes, it is exactly that. 

We have to constantly sweep the floor of our psyche. Some of us have to make this process more conscious than others; some of us are naturally more present-minded, others more future-oriented, and still others prefer the view from the rear-view mirror.

Getting over the past requires time – that is an obvious concept that has been paraded in the lyrics of many a love song. So this, I knew. But my younger self did not know that it sometimes requires actually redirecting thoughts, and changing emotional habits and patterns.

So persistent nostalgia is really this: a bad habit. And moving on? That’s a skill. And so the silver lining is this: a bad habit can be changed; and a skill, by its very nature, can be developed. 

Psychologists have found that up to 90% of what we remember from the past is not even what actually happened – it is just the story we have rehearsed. And the more we rehearse this story, the more inaccurate it becomes. Which is all the more dangerous of a trap to fall into – for we always distort the past to make the highlights impossibly bright, and as for the dark parts – well, we tend to forget about those altogether.

So if you are stuck in the past, which most of us are in some area, ask yourself if you’ve been actively moving forward, if you’ve been mentally redirecting your thoughts and focussing on the present.

And even when it seems like it is impossible, trust the process. It is always possible.


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