How Do I Leave My Painful Past Behind Me?
Dr. John H. Sklare, Ed.D
Tuesday, May 22, 2007
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Q: How do you put the past in the past and live in the present without it haunting you? I was abused for 10 years in a marriage – some mild physical abuse, some sexual, and a lot of verbal. I am now remarried and I thought I got over my past and moved on. But come to find out, I just buried it, and now am getting help for depression and anxiety. In therapy, I’m learning that I never got over my past. So my question – one that seems nobody has a formula or answer for – is how do you leave your past and live in the present without your past haunting you, and move to a new and better you? I feel like I take one step forward and two back.
A: Hi Shannon,
Let me begin by telling you how sorry I am to hear about your past abusive marriage. As often as I receive messages like yours, they still strike a chord with me and tug sharply at my heart strings. I’m so glad that you’re out of that nightmare. Nobody deserves that kind of treatment, and I applaud your decision to take action and escape. I am also very pleased to hear that you’re getting help for your depression and anxiety. I’m confident that one day you will look back at therapy as being one of the best decisions you ever made for yourself and your new marriage. And you are so right about there being no single formula for leaving the past behind and living in the present. Even though our individuality is one of the things that make each of us so unique and special, it is also the very thing that makes it impossible to supply a one size fits all answer to moving on. But I do have something personal to share with you about this issue that I hope you will find helpful.
I have a little ceramic sign in my kitchen that reads as follows: “The past is history. The future is mystery. The NOW is a gift. That’s why we call it - THE PRESENT!” I read that little sign, which is right next to my toaster, each and every morning, Shannon. It’s like a morning mantra for me, and also a constant reminder to be mindful about NOT projecting negative expectations into the future and NOT allowing pain from the past to color my day. It’s my daily reminder to embrace what I have today, right at this moment, in the here and now. I find that far too many people spend so much of their time dreading the future and lamenting the past that they totally miss the wonder and beauty of life in the moment. Anyway, I know I haven’t given you the magic answer, but the fact that you are seeing a therapist, E-mailing me and are actively seeking this answer tells me that you are a woman of action and that things are going to be just fine. Don’t let your past become your shadow, Shannon. Let the light of therapy and the strength of your inner spirit show you the way! I believe in you!
Wishing You Great Health,
Dr. John H. Sklare
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