Amy Rees Anderson

We Must Make Peace With Our Past To Truly Grow

“You must make peace with your past at some point in your life to truly grow.”  – unknown

Sometimes we go through things in life that are so traumatic emotionally that we bury them or file things away, we tell ourselves to forget about them, and we put all our focus on the future.  In our minds we believe that if we don’t think about them or acknowledge them they will somehow just go away.  For a time it works…life moves forward…the trauma is further behind us…and we think we’ve put it behind us and let it go…

Then something inadvertently triggers us…a voice gets raised…a door is slammed…a small criticism gets expressed…a particular word gets used…and we find ourselves flooded with emotions from sadness to rage and everything in between.  We jump to fight or flight mode because we won’t allow ourselves to become a victim ever again…

It took going to a professional counselor for me to understand that burying my past trauma hadn’t made it go away…in fact it was the very thing keeping it alive, because even if the memories could be buried the feelings of inadequacy and shame of “I should have” this and “if only I’d” that and the anger of “how could they” this and “why would they” that, couldn’t be.  The counselor helped me see that it takes revisiting past memories, not to wallow in their pain but to look at them from an empathetic perspective, to truly make peace with them. Because seeing ourselves and others through that empathetic perspective allows us to be honest with ourselves about the emotions we felt, it allows us to grieve, it allows us to let go of the need for justice, it helps us forgive those who wronged us, and most important, it helps us forgive ourselves for the “should have’s” and “if only’s” and recognize that we can’t go back and change what has passed so those thoughts will never be able to bring us peace. 

Making peace with the past comes when we forgive ourselves and others, when we see the positive that came from having gone through what we did, and when we take all we’ve learned from it and use it to then help others. 

~Amy Rees Anderson (author of the book “What Awesome Looks Like: How To Excel in Business & Life” )

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