In today’s self-help and spiritual community, the idea of focusing only on the present moment has become dramatized. We’re told that if we just focus on what’s going on right now, this exact second, we can live peacefully. But what about everything from our past that’s affecting this current moment? So many of our choices have brought us here, and we’re supposed to just forget about them?
A favorite book of mine is Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now; and while it has extremely useful information for those struggling with anxiety and hoping to create a better future for themselves, I do think it’s important to let people know that looking towards the past and towards what they are hoping for is beneficial as well.
While reading Tolle’s book, I was going through a period of great anxiety. In many ways, focusing on the “now”, and using the tools described in the book worked wonders. I was able to bring myself back to the present moment, and ground into feeling safe. But, the cause of my anxieties were still there, hidden away and able to come up at any moment.
None of the healing I have witnessed in my mind, body and Soul could have been possible without looking at events and memories from my past.
So much of the trauma we’ve endured becomes locked away in our psyche, and many of us living with extreme traumatic events don’t even know it’s there.. until we go searching for it.
When I was around the age my own son is now, I was molested for two years. After the abuse ended, I continued living without acknowledging what had happened – until the dreams and memories began, which were pieced together over the next three to four years. Eventually, I remembered enough of what happened, and knew in my heart that it was the truth, even though I had no proof behind what I felt and saw in my head. Years went by, and I finally told my parents. My mother believed me immediately, while others didn’t, but the perpetrator denied everything. It would be almost five more years until he admitted to the truth of what was done.
Much of society doesn’t realize it, but experiences like mine happen all the time. I’ve actually had multiple similar situations – two more being sexual abuse. Our mind finds the only way it can protect us. And so, we block out the pain, hiding it deep within ourselves.
If we choose to never look back, and only focus on the present, we will miss a huge chunk of who we are and why we react the way we do to certain triggers, events, and even people around us. This goes for small events as well.
For years, I went through life, not acknowledging the truth of multiple people around me. I knew how uncomfortable they made me feel, but didn’t have a reason to put to the feeling. So I ignored it. Being around them would often send me into a depression, or I would drink and even do drugs to escape what I was feeling. Eventually I dug deep, and I continue to dig.
When a trigger comes up, I ask myself where this feeling is coming from, and what my body or Soul may need.
Usually, a vision of the past will be brought forward and a piece of the puzzle will be shown. Everything doesn’t come all at once though. Often times, I have to force myself to listen to whatever may come up, even if I want to deny its truth. And that’s okay. I think that we have to deny the truth of what we have experienced in the beginning – otherwise it would be too much to handle.
I know though, that by not allowing my true feelings and thoughts to be heard, I only shove them back down to come up at another time.
While many of my personal experiences are extreme, everyone is living with triggers from the past that affect them in the present moment. A memory of a past boyfriend avoiding cuddling at times may cause you to fear initiating intimacy in your current relationship. Your mother becoming angry and refusing to take any blame when she made a mistake may cause you to avoid placing blame on someone except yourself. It may also cause you to avoid any type of confrontation, out of fear of upsetting the other person.
Anything and everything we have been through is affecting us in this moment.
By observing the past and asking why we may be acting this way, it can lead us to understand and make the necessary changes to live a more wholesome life. Yes, focusing on the present moment can be beneficial. But, we would be missing many large pieces of the puzzle if we refused to acknowledge information from the past as well.