Living in the Past

Dwelling on the past is often considered a shortcoming. The individual recounting events and circumstances from days gone by will be advised to let it go, and live in the moment.

In reality, reliving the past can serve useful purpose. It can be therapeutic to take a trip down memory lane. Examining past history and putting it in perspective, comparative to current behavior, can actually present an opportunity to learn life lessons and measure mental and emotional progress.

Healthy reasons for dwelling on the past:

* To resolve issues

If you view the past with regret, examining how you behaved, or what happened to you because of the behavior of others, with your current, more mature, thought processes might enable you to cease ruminating and forgive yourself and others for human failings.You cannot redo the past, but you can come to acceptance that one does the best they can with what they know at the time.

* To learn

Navigating life is challenging. Revisiting mistakes of the past and going over in your mind what you might have done differently can help you avoid the same pitfalls and weaknesses in your current life. Hindsight is 20-20 vision, and an excellent learning tool.

* To establish credibility

Often when an individual is compelled to repeat stories of accomplishments from his past life, what he is trying to do is gain credibility, and qualify his worth in the present. Affirming what has been achieved reinforces confidence and boosts self-esteem.

* To entertain and inform

Some people have difficulty establishing relationships and armor themselves with stories and anecdotes from the past to regal their audience and obtain respect and approval. The past is never really passed for these individuals; their way of relating to others is to clarify who they are today by what they did in the past. They epitomize the saying, Who we are today is the sum of our past experiences.

In these cases, dwelling on the past can be a harmless, albeit futile, exercise. The only potential infraction is possibly boring the listener of tales from long ago.

In other instances, dwelling on the past is done so for less healthy reasons and actually inhibits growth and the ability to fulfill potential:

– Fear of commitment

If an individual fears committing to the present, whether in regard to employment or relationships, he will remain attached to the past. Persons who are never fully connected to others and bounce from job to job, and refer to themselves as A jack of all trades, often fit this profile. There is an element of immaturity in the commitment- phobic personality.

– Lack of confidence

A person with low self-esteem will dwell on the past to boost his confidence. Clinging to the familiar is safe. They will repeat over and over what they have already done, but seldom take risks on new experiences.

– Lack of courage

Some people are so fearful of what the future might hold that they dwell on the past and, by doing so, reaffirm to themselves that they can make it through. They distract their present trepidation over the unknown by reliving familiar experiences, which no longer possess an element of fear.

– Seeking comfort

People who have experienced a protected and comfortable childhood can sometimes be reluctant to let go of that sheltered, dependent feeling and, thus, sabotage their own ability to perform as an adult by reverting back to the days when life was not so difficult, and worries belonged to the adults around them. They will often procrastinate in regard to their current responsibilities reliving over and over, The good old days.

These are just some of the reasons why people dwell on the past. An occasional trip down memory lane can pleasurable experience, as long as it is only a visit, and there is not impetus to dwell there.

If you find yourself unable to release the past, and compulsively reliving it in your thoughts or conversations, it might behoove you to talk to a counselor or therapist to ensure the past is not interfering with your present life.

A healthy approach is to put the past away. Come to terms with, or cherish, the memories; whichever better applies to your life. By doing so you can fully embrace the present and optimistically look forward to the future.