Time and time again, I hear clients ask themselves why “things” (events; situations, etc) happened in their life. They want answers to their “why-question”. Especially when their question pertains to events they perceive as negative. Clients then also often state that they are not able to move forward in their life/with their business/career, etc. UNTIL they find that answer.
A client of mine did this the other day. She claimed to have confidence issues when it came to defining and creating her future career. Her statement was along the lines of: “if only I knew why I developed this lack of confidence, I would feel motivated to actually apply for jobs and go for interviews”.
Now, this statement is not totally off the mark. Often, finding out “why” something unwanted has happened (or is happening) in your life can have a healing effect, and can definitely make it easier to move on. IF -and that’s a big if- you can find that “reason why”; take learning from it; see how the events were beneficial for you in some way; how they actually helped you shape yourself; THEN some research into the “why” of unwanted events can indeed be wholesome and helpful. This “positive asset” search can assist you in transforming your future positively.
For instance: if you find out that your fear of having a tricky conversation with someone was based on past events where you didn’t come prepared and therefore “lost” an argument, then you can learn to properly deal with that fear by properly preparing, next time a tough conversation needs to be had. In that case, the fear might still rear its ugly head, but you then transform that fear into something useful (i.e. being prepared).
Many people actually don’t work this way, with often detrimental effects.
This is what happens way more frequently:
- You start retracing your steps to find out why things are currently bothering you.
- Your focus on the past becomes a negative one (why am I feeling bad? Why did this happen? Why me?), so your search for answers is already tainted. You don’t feel good while questioning yourself.
- Often, you are not able to find a satisfying answer. Many a time, there is no answer at all; just more questions. That makes you feel worse.
- In having a negative focus, you find more “Stuff” to feel bad about (or: because the answer doesn’t show, you start to feel worse as you now become desperate to find that answer, for fear that this will haunt you forever).
- In not being able to find an answer at all; not being able to find just one “right” answer; in realising more nasty questions are now popping up; you become quite overwhelmed and sad.
- This feeds into your present (already fairly negative) state, which exacerbates the situation, and makes you feel worse, still.
- Your brain and body translate the negative thoughts and mental images into body sensations (e-motions; energies-in-motion), and you feel a “pit in my stomach”, or a “vice around my head”, the “pain in my neck”, a “heartache”, tears, shivers or similar.
- The end result: you run the risk of becoming even more resistant to “the future”, stating that you will “never be able to do this”, as the thoughts, mental images, body sensations and feelings are so overwhelming.
In short: searching for answers in the past with a negative mindset (why am I feeling so bad/why am I fearing this?) can often open up a bottomless pit of more questions without any (or any satisfying) answers, and more bad feelings. Searching for answers in the past with a positive mindset (what can I learn from the past?) can allow you to learn your lesson and move on from there.
Generally, I advise people who are feeling somewhat down and out not to delve into the past at all, until they are ready to see their life events in a more optimistic or useful light. My main aim is often to leave the past out altogether. You don’t need to resolve your past in order to forge your future!
There is -in my humble opinion- no need at all to know “the reasons why” before we can move ahead and create our desired future. Just start by moving forward! If anything pops up, you can deal with it THEN. I realise that this may seem contrary to what many counselling modalities propose; I am convinced, though, that digging up the past is often more detrimental than beneficial!
There is lots to say about this topic from a mindfulness and Cognitive Behaviour or cognitive restructuring point of view -which I will, in articles to come. The main message today is: be aware of a felt need to “resolve” issues from the past when thinking about taking steps towards a better future. If you find, like my client earlier, that the road to the future cannot be taken unless the road from the past has been cleared of rubbish, then you are holding yourself back unnecessarily. Start walking. The only time you want to deal with things from the past is when you actually encounter them while on your way to the future! Simple.
The past is history; the future is a mystery; today is the gift; that is why we call it the present.
Simplify your life. https://www.simplifyinglife.com.au/