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How to Move Forward and Stop Repeating The Past

Photo by EDUARDO IZQUIERDO
Your present circumstances don’t determine where you can go; they merely determine where you start. ~Nido Qubein

We move through our lives based on patterns of the past, replicating the systems and dynamics that we’ve become accustomed to.

Our brains are actually trained to perpetuate these patterns, as we reinforce the neural pathways that have been previously established.

Without consciousness, it continues.

It doesn’t matter whether we like these patterns or not.

It doesn’t matter whether we have different aspirations for our lives.

If we continue to live on autopilot, we will continue to attract similar relationships, repeat common professional moves and even sabotage our progress toward change.

We may even experience a little charge or rush when we come up against similar circumstances (even unsavory ones), as our brain seeks this repetition and rewards us when we find it.

It’s our brain’s way of maintaining homeostasis. It’s a biological imperative.

And it’s not too different from any other compulsion or addiction.

But with consciousness?

That’s a whole different story.

Recently I had the gift of a session with an intuitive healer, after another major life transition that left me reeling. I spoke with her openly about my fears and anxieties.

I shared with her the sadness I felt about the state of my life. I bemoaned this change in life course and explained how I felt grief and confusion all rolled up in one. I proudly told her, with a quivering voice, how I’d made this hard decision for the good of my son.

And then it was her turn to send me reeling.

“You think you’re being righteous in this decision, but that’s not righteous; that’s crazy!” She proceeded to describe the ways in which I had been perpetuating the same dynamics in my life for decades, based primarily on early relationships.

She pointed out, in great detail, the ways in which I had set up my life to continue this loop, like Groundhog Day.

And she was spot on.

When someone else sees straight through your crap and calls you on it so directly, it’s hard to stay in denial. This was a moment of epiphany for me.

My process moving forward was very specific to my circumstance and included lots of music, lots of journaling and lots of brutal honesty.

For you it may be different, but the gist is the same.

Here’s how to move forward without repeating your past:

1. Brutally Honest Assessment

For four weeks straight, I committed to a daily practice of written gratitude, prayer and my version of radical self-acceptance.

The daily gratitude was essential to help me keep perspective and to rev up my happy juices each day.

The written prayers were my moment to reflect on the needs of my loved ones, send healing thoughts and allow those feelings of love and connection.

The radical self-acceptance was my attempt to take an inventory of my current state and functioning. To be brutally honest with who I am and to take a moment and let my me-ness sink in. To put myself on the map, not so I could see where I’ve been but to more clearly see where I can go now.

No harsh judgments and no rationalizing.

Just like, “Oh, I complain about money,” or, “Interesting, I don’t make time for the things I love to do.” I don’t have to like those things, and I can look at them honestly to decide whether it would work better to make a change, but for now I just observe and accept them.

After four weeks of this, you’ll probably be ready for a breather.

2. Meticulous Self-Care

Don’t wait until the first four weeks are over to begin implementing a meticulous self-care regimen. Start now. Start yesterday, in fact.

The process of awareness and change is one of the most inherently stressful things we can do. To our bodies, change is stress. You’re going to feel raw, you’re going to feel tired and you’re going to need nurturing and sustenance.

This is a spiritual-emotional detox of sorts, and you’ll have to support all of your systems in getting through it.

Pay attention to your diet. This means different things to different people, but I’d recommend less of the common toxins: alcohol, sugar, caffeine, gluten and common allergens.

If you’re used to stamping out your anxiety with a nightly beer or turning to cake when things gets rough, these changes are going to be trying for you. Another change within a change, but one that will set your body up for a more resilient future.

Adjust your exercise. Do you need more intensity? Less? Longer sweat sessions? Something outdoors instead? Alone or in a group? Take the risk to stray from your normal routine, and try to check in with what really sounds good to you.

Protect your time. While you’re creating new patterns of behavior, you’ll need plenty of rest and relaxation. Things that are not in alignment with your goals for change should be left off the agenda.

Play and have fun. Pamper yourself. Drink hot tea. Spend time in nature. Listen to music that makes you feel energized when you’re tired and calm when you’re stressed. Minimize your exposure to visual media for a while. Meditate. Take baths.

Sleep. ‘Nuf said.

3. Stop Checking Out

Admit it: You do it. When things feel stressful, overwhelming, intense or just uncomfortable, you check out.

Checking out looks different for everyone. But typically if you do something frequently, compulsively or to avoid unpleasant feelings, you’re checking out.

Any of the examples below may be your form of checking out:

If you are checking out while you’re trying to forge a new path for your life (and new neural pathways for your brain!), it is not going to work. You will be snapped right back into your default mode.

This sort of change is dependent on consciousness.

That means feeling. Even when it feels awful.

You will need those self-care measures in place to shore you up when you take these compulsions away.

And you will have to be brutally honest with yourself about which behaviors are problematic for you. A big one for me was Facebook use. I checked often, just as a diversion from whatever uncomfortable emotions were stirring within.

I set a daily amount of Facebook use in my planner. I stuck with it for four days. Then relapsed. Then tried again.

Progress, not perfection, friends.

It’s essential to keep at it.

You can’t change what you don’t see.

And you can’t move forward if you don’t know where you are.

But where you’ve been can stay behind you, if you’re ready to tackle these changes and move forward with guts, consciousness and lots of hot tea.

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About the author

Angela Marchesani is a writer and Holistic Health Coach in the Philadelphia area. Her website, www.spokesholistic.com provides advice and resources for living a healthy, balanced and integrated life.

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7 thoughts on How to Move Forward and Stop Repeating The Past

  1. Jen

    Great read! I have a slightly different perspective on “3. checking out”, and have adopted a different approach that works well for me. When faced with major life changes–i.e. divorce, returning to work after staying home for 15 years raising a family–the challenge can be incredibly painful and sometimes last for years. I don’t think of checking out as a “bad thing”, I see it as a natural, healthy coping mechanism that can be embraced. When one make a conscious decision to engage in healthy activities, i.e. cleaning, diet, work, exercise, education, both the experience and benefits can be rewarding, motivating, and even supportive in the achievement of other major life goals overall. For me the key to success is selecting activities that align with the bigger change I have instigated in my life.

  2. sonal

    very beautiful article . Recently I had very stressful days worrying about past things or even words if somebody said against me . I forgave her anyway because some people are born to hurt others and it is so helpful to stay away from them even block their e-mail as they cannot change even if we try so hard . Food is best healer ,sleep is next and God is really great to care of all of us .

  3. My name is YH. I will share information about how to change negative patterns of behaviours and attitudes so that one can move forward to a new path of life.

    There are many ways to change one’s attitudes and behaviours such as the ones mentioned by Angela in this page. I am going to suggest one skill called deep self-communication. Please read and try, and keep doing the suggestions which are right and effective for you. That is the most important point.

    The suggestion for change is

    1/ think about what negative patterns of behaviours and attitudes you want to change , i.e. fail to build up a new business

    2/ sit down at a quite place, contemplating the past events of your life which were related to failure and annoying or think about problems you have in past.

    3/ keep asking yourself the same question “many times” until your see and hear the answer in your mind, i.e. in your childhood, a teacher told you that you failed in doing everything while you’d failed to follow a teacher’s instruction.

    Once one sees and hears the answer in one’s mind, the negetive patterns have gone.

    This skill may be more effective if that is conducted by an experienced practitioner but it can be done by oneself.

    We have “planted” the values into our mind unconsciously by ourselves or others but we do not realize how far it will affect our life until the related behaviours happen repeatedly and tremendously affecting our life. The self communication skill may help you to change.

  4. This is to clarify one point in my last comment:

    For Example, in your childhood, a teacher told you that you failed in doing everything while you’d failed to follow a teacher’s instruction. This value has planted into your mind unconsciously and makes you fail to do something in future including building a business.

  5. Great advice! It is very informative. We should learn to manage changes that happens in our life, learn from it, focus and move forward. Thanks for sharing.

  6. Wonderful post that has gotten me to really think of what I am doing with my life and if I am really moving forward. Our mistakes do really have a way of repeating itself even if we have told ourselves we have learned from them and never to commit them again. Your words have struck a chord and I shall keep them in mind as I take each step towards my goals.

  7. Aa

    Thank you for the wonderful article, Angela ! Excellent advice that truly resonates.

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