Our past experiences and the people from it, play a huge part in our present perceptions and behaviors. We mustn't confuse behaviors with identity however; the essence of who we are at our core and our personal existence is something that is ultimately unchangeable; we are all valid human beings with our own individual purposes in life. How we choose to behave, and how we react to others and certain situations however, is what charts the course of our lives. Emotionally, most of us have old childhood wounds which have conditioned our responses into adulthood. If you find yourself re-living the past and hoping the future will "get better" instead of being satisfied with the present, chances are, you've not made peace with your past...
How to Make Peace with your Past
1. Get rid of the pain. Carrying around painful memories will pretty much guarantee your inability to move on, and keep you stuck in old negative emotional cycles. Be committed to breaking the habit of wallowing around in the familiarity of pain - there's no need whatsoever to live there. Sit down and write a letter to every person whom you feel has hurt you in the past. Get angry, let your rage loose - and don't censor yourself since you're the only one who'll be reading it! Instead of having imagined conversations where you tell people off in your head, actually do it on paper, so you can put the old issues to rest. This will help you to stop blaming others for your misery - blame is a choice which clouds a truthful perspective.
2. Re-form your perspective. It's very common for people to say, "Everything happens for a reason". Stop and think about what those reasons are. If you went through a painful experience, think about how it made you stronger and what you learned from the situation. Don't look upon it as something that was done TO you, look upon it as a gift which ultimately helped you evolve into a better person. Which painful things have made you stronger, and how? When you cultivate this attitude, you'll be able to recognize the value of your experiences much sooner, and instead of attaching pain to them, you'll gain knowledge from it instead of a loss of control. Knowledge is power.
3. Change your grief to Positivity. When we suffer a loss, we typically go through 3 stages of grief:
1. Shock & Denial
2. Fear, Anger & Sadness
3. Acceptance & Understanding
Often, we get stuck in the first two, either by not dealing with our feelings, or by falling into depressive states and/or acting out in anger or fear. Meet your emotions head on. Have you actually let yourself experience the full range of emotions attached to your past? Emotions are representations of how we feel about ourselves and the situations we're in. Start by acknowledging them - say it out loud - "I'm sad because... I'm angry because". This will help you detach from the emotion instead of letting it control your mind and actions. Accept it, then let it go - it's your choice if you want to feel differently.
4. End your Shame. Shame is an emotion that runs very deep and can be very hidden. Yet, it's so obviously the root of so many of our emotional dysfunctions. Shame is about how we value ourselves. When you come from an emotionally or physically abusive background, and there doesn't even need to be severe abuse for shame to take effect, you often find yourself making promises and bargains about who you are. "I'll always be nice to people so I can't get hurt again" or, "I'll be just like my parents so they'll treat me better". You must own your own identity and stop changing it to avoid potential shame. If at some point in your childhood, you were "told" by someone else, either through their actions or words, that you were not a worthy human being, you can spend your life trying to cover up that shame and trying to act "normal". No one has the right to tell you who you are - it's as simple as that. Take ownership for yourself, your identity, and your beauty as a human being.
5. Find Inner Peace. Exercise, meditation, yoga, getting a massage, riding your bike - find and cultivate those quiet moments where you spend time with yourself, feel the energy around you, and are peaceful. This will benefit your state of mind, and especially your body - by removing the mental stress we put ourselves through.
6. Visualize your perfect Future. Write it down - don't hold back, and don't censor yourself. You have every right and every means to make your life exactly as you want it.
Dream big. In a couple days, go through your list and actually figure out the steps to making your dreams come true.
7. Be thankful. Look around you - appreciate who is in your life and why. Appreciate this beautiful Earth, and appreciate Wonderful You - you're here for a reason too!