Get Over It!

by Nancy Teatreaux

in Newsletter Thoughts from Nancy

Below is an excerpt from Nancy’s bi-monthly newsletter.

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I bet you learned the same as I did that one of the benefits of studying history is to avoid the repetition of error. If we understand how the last war started we won’t start another one; or so the theory goes. And it so happens that we apply this concept in our daily lives from an early age by learning from our mistakes; it’s necessary to our survival.

When I was a little kid, maybe 4 years old, I didn’t understand why adults got so wound-up every time I went near the stove.  “Don’t touch anything or you’ll burn yourself!” they said. But up to that point I hadn’t experienced any burn other than sunburn, and cooking looked so interesting.  So, one night while dinner was being prepared and no one was looking, I quickly stuck the tip of my index finger into a bubbling frying pan to find out what all the fuss was about.  Ouch!!!  Not supposed to touch stuff on the stove. Got it!  I learned my lesson and never did it again – at least not on purpose.

Metaphorically speaking, how many times have you stuck your finger into a hot frying-pan to see what would happen?  Remember that relationship with the person you knew was already in a relationship and living on another coast?  Hmmm.  How about the job that was such a great opportunity, but required working 16 hours a day for an egomaniac boss?  Awesome!  Who needs sleep, sunlight and recognition anyway?

Next question: Have you done something that caused you pain or discomfort, sworn you would never do it again, and then found yourself in the same situation, but with another person or working for a different company?  Does that sound familiar?  Why do we do these things to ourselves?  Why don’t we learn from our personal histories?

Maybe the answer isn’t in our history, but in our present.

The science of psychology tells us that if we want to change a behavior we must first observe it.  This is a powerful notion; it implies that we are responsible for our behavior – it’s a choice, once we become conscious of it.  If you see yourself engaging in work or relationships with people that make you unhappy you might find yourself asking: How did I let this happen again?  What’s wrong with me??  It’s at this point that we reflexively dig into our past looking for reasons.  We examine our childhoods, remember our greatest disappointments and poke around in old wounds. And sometimes we find the exact source of the self-destructive behavior we want to stop.  Eureka! Now we understand why we behave the way we do!  Phew!

But here’s the catch: in the process of trying to understand how our past informs our choices today we have a tendency to replay painful memories over and over again on our mental movie screens; reliving the pain and frustration and embedding it ever more deeply into our patterns of thought.  And so we stay stuck in our histories and caught in our hurtful patterns instead of making the most of the present.

In our attempt to understand our self-destructive choices we stand under the weight of our past problems, letting them overshadow our present; our power to create a better experience for ourselves today – right now.

Whatever happened in the past shaped who you are today.  Maybe it was awful and if it was I’m so, so sorry.  I’m not suggesting you deny it.  But thinking about it and reliving it won’t help you create the life you want now.

You are bigger than anything that has ever happened to you or that anyone has ever said to you – and I mean anyone at anytime.  But, no one but you can make the choice to put your history behind you and begin focusing on the life you want to create today.

As the saying goes:  The past is past.  If you don’t want to repeat it, get out from under it and get over it instead!

 

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