The problem of cogitating about past slights and hurts from others is common to our species. Equally common are regrets we harbor about words we have spoken and risks not taken in the course of our lives.
Whether we admit it or not, people have trouble letting go of the past and learning from mistakes. It’s very easy to get caught up in the past and become unable to move on. Bitter memories and playing the blame game cause us to miss new opportunities and just live our lives as free people.
The ability to forgive and move on is a skill that can be learned. We know that when we find it in our hearts, when we release ourselves from disappointment, resentment, and regret that life takes on a more positive tone. It’s not that we must forget the past actions of others and ourselves. Hindsight can supplement the wisdom of present-day reflection and foresight.
Terrible things happen to people. Those who dwell on the past tend to get stuck, and live unhappy lives. Those who move on, learn to live and let live and experience reasonably pleasant lives. We can take a page from the life of Elie Wiesel. He was able to find the strength to look beyond the cruelties and torture that he witnessed and endured at Auschwitz and Buchenwald
Wiesel understood that if he indulged in resentment and fear that he would suffer miserably like most of his fellow prisoners. Instead, he became an inspiration to those prisoners who chose to follow his example. At the end of the war, through his writings, he became an inspiration to millions of everyday people.
Thankfully, most of us have never had to endure the miseries of a concentration camp, but we have had some harsh encounters in life. There have been people who wish us harm and there are those who want to hold us back from living full lives. Some of us have suffered physical and mental abuse that make living seem almost as cruel as a life lived within the barbed wire of a death camp.
For extreme cases, professional counselling is necessary, but for the rest of us there is reason for optimism. We can realize the implications of the past and learn to appreciate the lessons learned from our experiences. We eventually find ourselves ready to pick up the pieces and move on.
There will always be some fair amount of bittersweet memories, regret and nostalgia. These will sometimes resurface as we get older. We can affirm and enjoy nostalgic memories for awhile, then rejoin the present moment. We can learn to embrace the end of suffering and take up new friendships, creative interests, and healthy emotional outlets. We find strength while once again engaging with life.
We can mentally step back and observe how emotional destabilisation can be used to reconfigure our lives and change how we understand this business of living. We can rediscover what it is that we truly want to do with our lives and what will make us feel most fulfilled. We understand that oftentimes, disappointment is necessary in order to dispell delusions and fantasies. We can transition from pie in the sky to positive realism.
We find out that moving on has another name. It’s also called “acceptance”.
The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes Johnny Cash. “You build on failure. You use it as a stepping stone. Close the door on the past. You don’t try to forget the mistakes, but you don’t dwell on it. You don’t let it have any of your energy, or any of your time, or any of your space.”