The past is a strong magnet and can be a major stumbling block to raising consciousness. One aspect is the way repressed memories, beliefs and issues from the past control the present. The aspect I’m examining here is the tendency some of us have to let our conscious minds become caught up in certain events and things people said or did. When you can’t let go, you keep re-playing, re-living, and fantasizing reinventions, sometimes months or years later. That used to be me so I know this territory.
Last month a long-time—and once very close—friend of mine ended our friendship. Although she was angry about something I said recently the main source of her rage was about something I didn’t remember saying. I finally realized the conversation was 10 or 12 years ago and I couldn’t remember it because she’d twisted or misunderstood what I said just enough that I didn’t recognize it. Over the years I listened to her endless deconstructing of so many things that other people said or did that, knowing that’s who she is and what she does, I felt little surprise that the brooding fury finally turned to me.
“What a sad waste,” I thought, “to spend 10 years of your life brooding and fuming over anything anybody said—and worse to spend that much time pawing over a misconception.” Since I used to be a fuming brooder I know how much time out of a day you can spend obsessing over what this one said and what that one did. Based on years of hearing her obsess about various nefarious sayings and doings—often coming back a year or two later to paw some more over incidents I thought had been laid to rest—I’m guessing at least a couple of hours a day (sometimes probably more) were spent on nothing but fretting over the past. In 10 years that adds up to more than a year of waking hours. And what did it accomplish? Could it have in any way added something positive or good to her life?
From the “people are who they are and they do what they do” perspective, most of what people say is some reflection of them not you so not worth taking personally anyway. Even if it is personal or purposeful that reflects the other person. There really isn’t anything that’s worth wasting years of your life re-living moments from the past.
Sometimes that deep obsessiveness is so tied to unaddressed issues that it’s worth some self-exploration to figure out where or why the pattern originated. Sometimes it’s a habit and you can mindfully start re-directing your attention, concentrating on letting go instead of holding on, and being in this moment instead of being lost in the past. If you’re wasting any of the days of your life on worry about the past, try to let it go. Think about your life if those hours and days and weeks were spent meditating, affirming, watching funny movies, offering service to others or creating something… does that feel any better when you imagine it than a year spent angrily obsessing over what somebody else said?