You Do Not Need to Resolve Your Past to Forge Your Future

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Do We Need Answers to Questions?

This is going to be a fairly short article about a topic that is close to my heart when it comes to simplifying life. Time and time again, I hear clients ask themselves why events happened in their life. The want answers. Especially when this question pertains to events they perceive as negative. They often also use this question being unanswered as a reason for not being able to move forward in their life/with their business/career, etc.

A client of mine did this the other day. She has confidence issues when it comes to defining and creating her future career. Her statement was that along the lines of “if only I knew why I developed this lack of confidence when I was younger, I should be alright in actually applying for jobs and going for interviews”.

Now this statement is not totally off the mark. Often, uncovering what causes something negative to show in your present life can have a healing effect and make it easier to move on. IF (and that is the big IF) you find out the “reason why” and are ok with the event from that point forward; take learning from it; see how that event was beneficial for you in some way; how it has actually helped you shape yourself; THEN some research into the past is wholesome and helpful. You transform your future positively by going back to the past on a “positive asset” search. For instance, if you find out that your fear of confronting someone was based on past events where you didn’t come prepared and therefore “lost” the argument, then you can now properly deal with that fear by preparing well next time you’re facing a challenge with someone. In that case, the fear will not rear its ugly head, and you will probably do fine.

So often this is not the way people “work” this method, with detrimental effects.

This is what happens way more frequently:

  • People start retracing their steps to find out why things are currently bothering them.
  • As their focus on the past is a negative one (why am I feeling bad today?), their search is already tainted. They don’t feel good while performing their “search”.
  • Often, they are not able to find a “one and only” answer. This makes them feel worse.
  • In having a negative focus, they find more “Stuff” to feel bad about (or: because the answer doesn’t show, they start to feel worse as they now become desperate to find that answer).
  • Not being able to find an answer; not being able to find just one answer; suddenly actually finding more questions that need answers; people become quite distraught.
  • This then feeds into their present (already fairly negative) state, which exacerbates that whole situation.
  • Their bodies translate their negative thought/emotions into body sensations, and they feel a “pit in my stomach”, or a “vice around my head”, or similar.
  • The end result: people become even more resistant to the future, stating that they will “never be able to do this”.


Negative Mindset Leads to Negative Experiences

Searching for answers in the past with a negative mindset (why am I feeling bad/fearing this?) will open up a bottomless pit of more questions, no or not satisfying answers, and more bad feelings.

Searching for answers in the past with a positive mindset (what can I learn from the past?) will 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 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 “reasons why” before we can move ahead and create our desired future. Just start moving forward! If anything pops up, you can deal with it THEN. I realise that I might be going contrary to many counselling modalities; I am convinced, though, that digging up the past is often more detrimental than beneficial!


The Past is Behind You. Live Forward

There is lots to say about this topic from a mindfulness and Cognitive Behaviour and/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, 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. Just start walking. The only time necessary to deal with things from the past is when you actually encounter them while on your way! 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.