How to “pass” the past. In 12 steps.
Step 5: Study.
“Those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it.”
“Those unable to catalog the past are doomed to repeat it.”
“Those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it.”
“He who doesn’t understand history is doomed to repeat it.”
Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
“Learn from history or you’re doomed to repeat it.”
“He who forgets the past is doomed to repeat it.”
“Those who don’t know their history are doomed to repeat it. You have to expose who you are so that you can determine what you need to become.”
Cynthia A. Patterson
The above is a quote that I have heard so many times over my life span. I don’t know who was the first one to pen these words or which is a variation of the original but when I went to research it I found numerous authors and so I shared a few of them. They all basically say the same thing, just different wording. I share them as a reminder or evidence that many people identify with this as an issue and evidently it has been an issue since the first moment passed and became a “past”.
Study YOUR past!
One of the reasons that the past is so often able to control and condemn us by its power is because we fail to understand the particulars of it. We don’t know why someone did something or why something happened or what made us the target or what we did to deserve it or where the people were to protect us or the answers to all of the other questions that haunt our recollections and memories of our histories. And those questions pervade our thoughts and become responsible for creating the conditions and circumstances that provoke us to hurt because of them. Those questions and the lack of resolution or closure come together to create the cultures of silence and secrecy that torment us in our present lives. We mire in the controversies of our beginnings and become slaves to the repeated mess that is constructed. And we carry and share that baggage boldly, unknowingly into our current presents and nows and whatever our futures are to be. Carrying on the trauma and tragedy to the demise of relationships and friendships, and acquaintances, alike. We destroy our lives in the shadows of our darkest moments, and then we repeat them for lack of acknowledging or understanding them. And they become the learned behaviors that we teach and repeat in our actions and language. They become our traditions and routines and legacies.
Or we can study them.
Study YOUR past. I am not ascribing that YOU become a student of YOUR past, YOU were already a student of it. and YOU sat in that class, YOU came early, YOU had detention, YOU took summer course in that class. I don’t recommend that YOU continue to subject YOURSELF to that anymore. But now YOU must review for the “test”, the one YOU must “pass” in order to get to the next level. It’s time to go over what YOU learned, why YOU had to learn it, and what it means for YOU to know it.
Studying in this sense is done by YOU taking note of what happened. YOU must admit that it happened. YOU must acknowledge that it happened. YOU don’t have to know why it happened, some “whys” YOU will never know and trying to figure them out may only lead to more rejection, more repetition, and more remembering them in a way that causes YOU more pain. So “why” doesn’t matter, the fact is that it happened, let’s now do something so that it doesn’t have to happen again!
Studying the past is also where YOU examine YOUR own behaviors and characteristics, the good and the bad ones, in order to gain a perspective on just how little or how much things, people, and events, of YOUR specific past have affected or infected or effected YOU. Study YOUR patterns and habits. Study YOUR routines. Study YOUR words and feelings. Study how YOU handle, mishandle, or choose not to handle issues. Study YOUR reaction to triggers like places, people, music, things, ideas, and events, that cause YOU to revert or regress to old and unhealthy ways of expressing or not expressing YOURSELF. Study YOUR moments. When YOU have felt terrible, take note of the atmosphere, the surroundings, the conditions, the audience, the places, and the reasons. When YOU felt extremely well or better enough to declare YOURSELF “okay”, take note of these same variables. Seek and search to reveal the common or uncommon denominators and analyze and observe what are YOUR risk factors. Pay attention to the similarities or differences that certain of these factors produce in or around YOU. It is very healthy and recommended that YOU have someone who YOU identify with in this process. An accountability partner is great. Licensed professionals, like therapist or counselors are great observers and are equipped with the ability to help YOU recognize these things with an unbiased eye and perspective. The professional may be more ideal for YOU if, like myself, YOU have or had severe trust issues. Because the vulnerability that is required in this step may often push YOU to run back to the ugly habits of guilt and shame that are the catalyst for keeping our “past” or the things that we keep alive from our past, alive. So having a therapist or counselor to help YOU “study” is like having a tutor. The more preparation the better. And sometimes it’s hard to study with “friends”.
Studying takes time too. Because YOU probably don’t have, in this context, great study habits. What YOU may have is superb memorization skills. YOU probably excel at visual, kinesthetic learning. YOU may or may not be good at comprehending which information to hold onto or which data to disregard. And YOU will have to figure that out. YOU will have to realize which parts of the past YOU study are necessary to remember and which parts are best forgotten. YOU must gain reference by way of opening YOURSELF up to the reality that YOU went through what YOU went through for the sake of benefiting someone, YOU, of course, and someone else who is suffering and needs YOUR answers. Once YOU pass the test, YOU can pass on the notes, YOU can pass on the answers, YOU can teach the class!
The alternative is just as it was in school. Either YOU pass the class or YOU flunk out. Or YOU repeat it. YOUR past is a class. YOU should only have to take it once.
©Cornelious “See” Flowers