We went to Oxborough Hall today, a beautiful place, steeped in history, in the depths of the Norfolk countryside. As I walked through the beautifully decorated rooms it got me thinking about the people that have lived and visited this place, and before it was built, the people that walked along the ancient pathways and roamed the land around it. Years and years of births, deaths, happiness, sadness, battles, romances and so many other things. Much of which has been catalogued in the history books and gone down through the generations in stories of the past, remembered and passed on.
A well documented history is great for many reasons; to compare past to present, to be aware of our roots and where we came from, even to be reminded of the bad things and so hope to prevent them in the future.
What’s interesting is that our minds work in a similar way to our keepers-of-history, carefully logging past events in the enormous filing cabinet that we call our brain, and recalling them at appropriate times to benefit us… or sometimes not.
Sometimes recalling past events is incredibly important, for example if we burn our hand on a hot pan on the stove we learn very quickly not to do it again. This is one of a great number of very valuable lessons that are important to remember.
Where this skillful storing and recalling of information becomes unhelpful is when it’s something that has no benefit to our emotional or physical wellbeing, and we have a tendency to be pretty good at remembering bad events or emotions and recalling them over and over to no benefit to ourselves at all. That mixed with our fantastic ability to distort, delete and generalise all information that comes at us can be a recipe for disaster.
At every moment of the day we are being bombarded with billions of bits of information and our brains cannot possibly process it all so it has developed a handy trick to deal with this: distort, delete and generalise*. Our unconscious mind filters out what it perceives to be the most important information and stores that as our reality. So really what we think we see is not actually what is happening, just our version of it. Which is why if you walk 10 people down a street and then ask them to describe what they saw, they will most likely all give totally different answers because they are all deleting, distorting and generalising via their five senses to suit their own beliefs and values.
When an event happens you have the actual event, then you have what you saw/felt/heard/smelt etc, then you have what you remember you saw/felt/heard/smelt etc which is likely to be even more distorted over time so what you remember to be true when you think of the event is quite often poles apart from what really happened. This is the same for all events that happen in our lives.
Peter Berger put it nicely when he said “The past is malleable and flexible, changing as our recollection interprets and re-explains what has happened.”
So have you got any past personal events that have affected, or even still do affect your life in a negative way? Perhaps you had an big argument with a close friend, or maybe you had a bad relationship and have stored away all the negative feelings that you gathered up during that time? Instead of feeling the emotions and letting them go, you’ve stored up the anger, resentment, sadness, frustration..(insert emotion here) and I’m sure you already know that this has no benefit to you yet there’s something stopping you from letting it go.
How does it make you feel when you consider that what you remember is not actually what happened?
If you could change how you feel about that event now, would you do it?
Would it be great if, when you thought of the event now, you had no emotional reaction?
This of course is completely in your power to do so and there are a number of techniques that can help you including counseling, life coaching and (my own personal favourite) an NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) session.
So why would you even bother working at letting go of this past event? Why not just bury it and leave it in the deep, dark recesses of the unconscious mind? A number of reasons really…
1) Letting go of emotional baggage can feel like a huge weight being lifted from your shoulders. Quite often we don’t realise quite how much of an effect an old, negative emotion can have on your life. Sometimes from this one problem stems other issues, emotional blocks and even phobias and when you work through it you may find that it has more of a far-reaching effect that you would have anticipated.
1) Canker spreads. Simple as that. If you knew you had mould in your fridge you wouldn’t leave it to spread through and cover all the food. You’d clean it out immediately to ensure it didn’t ruin anything else nearby. It works the same for your emotions – negativity breeds negativity so if you hold on to your negative emotion it will, without you even realising it, slowly work through into other parts of your life.
3) Why would you want to hold on to something when you can let it go? Imagine the freedom of feeling an emotion and letting it flow through. This is the path to truly living ‘in the now’. Let go of the negative. Remember the positive. Enjoy the present.
Of course this is always a work in progress and having worked through lots of my own emotional baggage I know how far I have come and what a difference it has made to my life. We invest time and money in keeping our cars, computers etc running smoothly and we should also ensure we do the same for ourselves.
So why not take action now. Book some ‘me time’ and invest some time in yourself. You don’t have to spend a fortune, you don’t have to see a professional every week, but if you do make the effort you may just change your life for the better.
Enjoy the journey 🙂
“Live each day as if your life had just begun.”
– Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Love and blessings
*Find out more about this here: http://www.nlpcoaching.com/nlp-commmunication.html