When I was 5 years old our family moved to Starkville, Mississippi. My dad had secured a position as a research scientist at Miss. State Univ. that was simply too good to pass up.
Starkville was a small town like many other small towns across America. Life was slow and safe and predictable. All in all, not such a bad place to live.
For the next 12 years I was a Starkvillian. Like so many other young boys I spent most of my free time exploring the world from the comfort of a bicycle seat.
Life was full of adventures. Looking back now, it resembled a series of Norman Rockwell paintings.
But it wasn”t always so idealistic. In fact, for over 20 years after leaving that small town I hated everything to do with Starkville. I called it a nightmare existence in a God-forsaken town.
So why do you suppose I hated it?
I Focused On The Negative
Like children everywhere, my wonder years consisted of good events, bad events, and many mediocre and neutral events. Good times that made me feel good. Bad times that made me feel bad. And many events stirred little emotional reaction at all.
However, my problem was that I discounted the good events, while elevating the bad ones.
The painful events on my past became like anchors – the pillars of the past. The defining moments of my life.
Certain events would happen, and rather than simply feeling the pain and moving on, I would suppress and repress those painful emotions.
Paradoxically, while I denied the feelings, I elevated the events. I would take a painful situation and make it much worse than it really was.
I Embellished My Past
How do you embellish a painful past? Intentionally exaggerate its stature and importance. Like a playwright constructing a play, I would add drama for the effect it created.
I would set the stage. Get the lighting just right. Play suspenseful music in the background. Create a prologue –
“The story you are about to hear is true. Only the names have been changed to protect the innocent…”
Like one of those old Dragnet TV shows!
I built it up any way I could. I made it sacred.
And no matter what, I could *NOT* feel the feelings of those past events and let them go! I needed those unresolved emotions to breathe life into an otherwise-dead past.
I spent way too much of my time giving CPR to a corpse of the past. Ever given CPR? It”ll wear you out! It”s hard to do it for very long; it”s just too much work.
Imagine doing it for decades.
I defined my life by those highly selective events of the past that were being kept alive ONLY by my emotional energy.
I Was Giving My Power To The Past
Thoughts and feelings are the very source of your power. Your power – your ability and willingness to act – comes about because of the constant stream of your thoughts and feelings.
Thoughts and feelings are constantly and consistently springing forth into your consciousness.
A stream of thoughts. A stream of feelings. Together they are the source of your power.
If you”re using those thoughts and feelings to hold onto the past, then you”ll have less power available to you now. Power that could be used to heal your emotions instead becomes diverted into holding the past in place.
I Built My Past Into A Frankenstein”s Monster
Out of that handful of painful events I created a backbone. From the backbone I grew a skeleton. Surrounding the skeleton I grew muscles and skin and internal organs. I gave it a heart. I gave it a voice.
All that growth required conscious effort on my part. I had to keep reminding myself of those painful events.
“I really was wronged.”
“I really was shamed.”
“I really was abused.”
Building them up and fleshing them out took a lot of my power. But it was worth it. I got to feel like a victim. I got to hide in my self pity. I was entitled. Hey, I EARNED the right to engage in any errant behavior I chose!
I earned the right to blame, to struggle, to manipulate and punish anybody I wanted. I earned my righteous arrogance because of my embellished pain of the past.
I was powerless as a result, but that”s okay. I earned the right to be weak by all the effort I was expending to try to keep the past alive.
I took the best of me and gave it to a past that didn”t even exist.
It takes constant effort to keep the past alive. You can”t just set it and forget it – like a thermostat on the wall. You have to keep remembering it. You have to keep using today”s power to reinforce the imprisonment of yesterday”s power.
We Invest In The Past
The past is over, yet so often our power remains trapped in the emotional investment we”ve made in certain painful events of that dead past.
The past is over.
But the very power we need to break free of those memories is instead being diverted into a much more sinister goal. We invest a lot of time and energy creating a Frankenstein”s monster of the past, and it”s become too big to handle.
The power you need to heal the past is instead being used to try to keep it alive. It becomes a tangled mess.
You can”t heal the past until you get more power.
You can”t get more power until you heal the past.
So what”s the answer? First you heal a little bit, and you retrieve a little power. Then, in your empowered state you heal a little more and get back a little more power. It happens layer by layer.
And it all begins with a willingness to change.