George Washington is among quite a few people credited for saying, “Those who forget the past are destined to repeat it.” I heard that when I was in high school and took it to mean that we need to hold on to our history with tight-fisted vigilance or else we’ll keep making the same mistakes.
I’ve actually found that to not be wisdom at all. And truthfully, the more I’ve held on to my past, the more it’s held me back.
This is not to say that we shouldn’t learn the lessons of history. Actually, I think that’s what our 1st President was really trying to point out.
Everything we experience is a teacher. Sometimes we need to hold on to the lessons from our history so that we can learn from them and reach the successes we dream of.
Yet are you are holding on to the lessons from your own history or the painful pieces that have caused us terrible pain and tragedy? To forget the past is harder than it seems.
Depression is more than just sadness
Depression is something that impacts 1 in 5 adults in America each year. According to nami.org, 43.8 million Americans experience a mental health illness each year. These are staggering figures.
One of the leading causes of mental health issues is trauma. Trauma leaves us feeling shellshocked and creates immense difficulties in our ability to go on like normal.
There are all sorts of trauma. A simplified definition is “a deeply distressing or disturbing experience.”
Trauma happens on all levels of the human experience-physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual. Trauma has the effect of sticking with us. Creating feedback loops in our minds where we replay the traumatic experience to ourselves over and over again.
With this constant negative feedback loop, to forget the past is like climbing uphill barefoot in the snow. In -40 degree weather. Pushing a boulder. I can add more to this metaphor but what’s the point. It’s beyond challenging, right?
If you struggle with letting go of a memory from your childhood where you were bullied or harassed, there’s trauma there. If every time you want to start fresh and set out to create a goal for something you want, but find yourself stopping after the first day, think about why.
What stops us from forgetting the past
Could it be that there’s this voice (your inner critic) telling you that you’ll fail? And you are given all these examples from your past where you tried to do something that didn’t work.
So your mind is quick to bring back to the surface all the times you didn’t succeed. And since you’ve had these experiences in your past, you let yourself believe that the past will repeat itself. Which makes trying to forget the past seem so challenging.
This is what keeps you stuck
In the Pixar movie, Inside Out, the main character is a little girl named Riley. Her life and well-being are the focal points of the storyline. Yet it’s actually her five core emotions that are what the movie is about. Interestingly enough, only one of her core emotions is something you’d liken to happiness: Joy.
The other core emotions are anger, disgust, sadness, and fear. When I first heard about this movie, I didn’t want to see it.
As an optimistic and peaceful person, I didn’t think it was accurate to say that we only have one “happy” emotion that guides us through life.
But as you watch the movie, you see how each of these core emotions serves a powerful role in Riley actually having happiness. Because happiness is actually the goal and aim for all of these emotions to work together to produce.
Bill Hader is the voice of fear. And it’s not fear like a horror movie. It’s fear that’s concerned with making sure Riley doesn’t slip and fall, or get into danger. Fear is looking out for her wellbeing.
When our minds remind us of painful experiences from our past, fear is essentially trying to do the same thing.
Over the past few years, I’ve grown in my relationship with fear. I don’t see it as my enemy anymore. I see it as a friend who wants to make sure that I’m safe. Because ultimately that’s the purpose of fear.
Yet sometimes we have to tell a friend that their opinion about life isn’t what we’re going to follow. We have to forget the past so that we can embrace a more beautiful future.
Yet we have to re-parent ourselves as we grow up
If we choose to hold on to the painful experiences of our past, we’re destined to repeat them. Our painful experiences and different levels of trauma create these stories we tell ourselves about who we are. And what we’re capable of.
These self-defeatist stories keep a feedback loop of feeling unworthy, not good enough, and being a failure.
We tell ourselves “I can’t…” at the suggestion or desire to take a risk or try something new. We get stuck in this pattern of letting fear dictate our course of action that we’re never able to move forward. Then, we’re second-guessing ourselves the whole time.
To forget the past is to let the old story go.
True happiness and success come from letting our past show us lessons to learn. Harness the lessons, be grateful for them, and change the story of what the painful experiences brought you.
If anything, let yourself see how you survived your most painful experiences.
Let this empower you. You got through those ridiculously painful times! You’re still going! That means you’re a powerful person.
Forget the past stories of your losses
Today I’m using some film references to really drive this point home. Here’s a scene reference from one of my all-time favorite movies, and probably THE most influential film for me in overcoming deep insecurities and fears.
In the film Rocky 3, Rocky has gone from being on top of the world as the heavyweight champion to feeling totally worthless. It happened suddenly, as heartbreak usually does.
After a series of title defenses, he gets his own statue in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. And he announces his retirement. But amongst the crowd there is a challenger who wants to face him. Mr. T (whose character’s name is Clubber Lang)!
Lang calls out Rocky for dodging him and not facing any real challengers. He provokes Rocky enough to get him to agree to a fight. Mickey, Rocky’s old trainer, doesn’t want this at all. He’s seen Lang fight and knows his prowess and power are too much for Rocky now. He doesn’t have that dogged determination that he had when he fought Apollo Creed in the first two films.
As Rocky trains for this fight, it’s very Hollywood. He’s not focused or taking it seriously. And it shows when Rocky faces Lang in the ring. In the second round, Rocky experiences his most crushing defeat, a knockout.
For Rocky fans who watched this film in 1983, they probably weren’t expecting to see their hero get pummeled into the ground like he did. But this loss proved to be a powerful way for Rocky to do what he does best: dig deep and find his true heart to emerge as a champion.
Sometimes we need Love to show us the way
Yet it wasn’t just adding his former rival Apollo Creed as his trainer that created the championship comeback. It was him choosing to let go of the fear that kept replaying in his mind over and over again while he trained.
The most pivotal scene in the movie (and I venture to say in the whole film series) happened on the beach with Adrian.
Rocky is visibly not present. He’s trying to train in a way he never has before, learning a new style of boxing. He’s racing Apollo down the shoreline. Yet all that keeps playing in his mind is getting hit by Lang over and over again. And his face bouncing off the mat when he was knocked out.
Adrian sees this and shows a part of herself that we hadn’t seen before. She calls out Rocky for running away from his real problem.
And in this moment, our hero admits (for the first time in his life) that he’s afraid. He had a ton of excuses for why he couldn’t do it. But it took Love (in the form of Adrian) to make him face the music.
She told him that he had to choose to do this for himself, not for her or for money or fame. She told him that he can’t let himself carry that fear around with him. That he had to go in there and fight for himself. And if he loses, at least he loses with no excuses. No fear.
Man, I get excited every time I see or think about that scene. Because that’s what Love does with us. Love shows us how to use our past to learn lessons that propel us into the happiness and success we dream about.
But we have to let go of the fear. We have to surrender the pain. The past is a story that can be rewritten if we’ll choose to believe in ourselves and not be held in slavery to it.
Learn the lesson by changing your story
When you choose to forget the past, you can gain the Eye Of The Tiger!
What are the stories you’ve been repeating in your head? Are they affirming or disempowering? If you have painful experiences from your past that keep replaying in your mind and holding you back from what you want to have, let them go.
I don’t say this lightly. I spent the majority of my life ruled by fear. Fear or failure, fear of rejection, fear of abandonment. And in one full swoop I experienced my worst fears all at once: the end of a 12 year marriage and divorce.
I could have let that gut wrenching heartbreak determine how I operated for the next decade or longer. But Love met me where I was. And Love showed me that because I hadn’t known how to Love myself, I kept experiencing rejection and pain.
The lesson I learned that changed my life was to see how self-Love was the medicine and solution I needed, not more fear. It was in my most painful moments when I chose to begin a process of learning how to Love myself. And heal. And transform from the inside out. But I had to forget the past in order to step into my full self.
This is what my book Be Solid: How To Go Through Hell & Come Out Whole teaches in more detail.
The past doesn’t have to define you. Let it be a teacher. Learn the lessons it shows you. And let the power of Almighty Love (God/the universe) lead you into transformation by giving yourself the Love that you deserve.
Forget the past so you can step into your full, beautiful, and amazing self.
I believe in you. You are worth fighting for!
Learn exactly how to change your story
Do you want some help and clarity on letting go of your past negative story? I’d be happy to show you what I’ve done to change my beliefs and experience transformation because helping you live your best life is my mission. If you’re someone who takes action on what you read, I want to talk with you. Let’s chat about how you can move forward with your life, build stronger relationships, and experience success.
It’s totally free. You’ve got nothing to lose and everything to gain. So let’s do it!