Leafing through albums with children’s photographs, meeting classmates, remembering first love – there are many ways to realize “who we were and who we are now.”
“We are returning to the past, yearning for a time when we were better, cleaner and full of hope,” says family therapist Kateryna Khmelnitskaya. – Here we feel more comfortable, safe, and almost always our past allows us to see ourselves in a new way. It, like a healing source, nourishes both the present and the future. And it is not so important whether the memories correspond to reality – whether my father was a cheerful and caring person or played with me only when he was in a good mood – what matters only is how they were imprinted in our memory. The past, perceived positively, helps to live actively and to plan the future with hope ”.
But sometimes a person seems to freeze, it is difficult for him to distance himself from what has ended long ago. Constantly looking back, he imperceptibly abandons some part of himself, stops there and does not move on.
Giving up emotions
To part with the past, to say goodbye to it is a mental work, not a quick emotional process that goes through several stages. Denial: It is difficult to accept that the past cannot be returned. Irritation and even anger: we seem to make claims about what happened to us. Then there is anxiety, fear: “How to live further?” And finally, acceptance, which helps to realize that the place of the past is in the past.
“It’s not easy for some to go this way,” explains Kateryna Khmelnitskaya. – Therefore, they unconsciously try to stay where they felt good and calm, or, conversely, they cannot forget the time when it was too painful. They return again and again to old experiences, and their real life is distorted by the prism of the past. “
It is especially difficult for those who do not manage to freely handle their emotions, to understand and express what they really feel. “As a result, a person gets stuck on a certain emotion, he is unable to overcome it, leave it in the past,” explains Katerina Khmelnitskaya.
Refusal from oblivion
A person becomes a prisoner of the past even when his old relationship is not settled. It is difficult to part with the past also because at the same time the realization of the finiteness of life comes to us and, as a consequence, the thought of death.
“If we lose someone close to us, then overcoming our emotions can mean forgetting a loved one,” says Kateryna Khmelnitskaya. – Involuntarily, our thoughts return to him, our relationship, as if we can change something.
“I stopped regretting what is not there”
Maya, 39 years old, realtor
“My marriage collapsed: my husband just left, taking his things. It took me years to say goodbye to this part of my life. I thought only of him, cried and dreamed of one thing: to meet with him again, to explain that he had made a mistake … I turned to a psychotherapist to talk about a man whose thought was driving me crazy. And suddenly I realized that I just didn’t want to “let him go” … As it happens, we ran into him quite by accident: he grew old, got fat. I was very embarrassed: “I can’t talk to you, my wife is terribly jealous …” This meeting drew a line under my idealized past: I stopped digging into things that have not existed for a long time. “
Refusing to part
Behind the inability to live in the present can be hidden unwillingness to move away from childhood and look into the future. This is often faced by those who suffer from the real or symbolic absence of a father in their life: it is the father, “wedging in” into the relationship between mother and child, forcing the latter to break out of the relationship of merging with the mother in order to open up to the world.
It is the father who indirectly helps the child to fit into the present and navigate in the future. If this is not the case, the child will remain symbolically “glued” to the mother and, as an adult, will live with the thought that “it was better before”.
What to do?
Learn to live in the present
Living for today means physically feeling that you belong to it. Doing sports, yoga, walking, the ability to relax and control your breathing – all this makes it possible to put your body in order and feel like you are living here and now.
Creativity allows us to gain a foothold in the present tense: it reflects our inner world and helps to understand that we are capable of creating new things.
Make a list of your fears
“If I knew where to fall, I would spread straws.” However, it is impossible to foresee everything. Make a list of your fears, not missing out on even the most ridiculous, – this will help you look into the future more boldly and more realistic, see it more rationally.
Face the past
Nostalgia is the result of a natural tendency to idealize the past. Find an opportunity to return to the places you constantly think about. Often, a real meeting helps to free ourselves from the idyllic image that is engraved in our memory.
Advice to others
Show a pronounced interest or cut off the conversation … The right decision, of course, lies between these extremes. Give the “hung up” interlocutor time to remember something important to him and thus feel more confident. But be sure to set certain boundaries so that the memories do not completely absorb him and the conversation does not turn into a long monologue. A few minutes of talking about the past is often enough for a person to calm down. Move the conversation to another topic that directly concerns him too. In this way, you will help him return to today.