How to get unstuck from the past

Illustrated by Robert Labayen

St. Peter’s biggest problem was math.

When Jesus told him he must forgive his brother not seven times but seventy times seven times, he got really confused.

We don’t even need psychologists and psychiatrists to tell us why forgiving is a difficult thing to do. I admit I don’t have the ability to utter magical words and make you forgive a person who has hurt you really bad or has caused a loss in your family. I can only hope there are some feelings you can begin to handle better especially with the passage of time.

The first person we may forgive is ourselves. There are people who live a life of regret, mentally replaying bad events and blaming themselves for bad decisions, wrong choices or things within or beyond their control.

My usual hang up is fretting over the fact that I cannot undo the times I hurt or disappointed other people. I used to think I had an overdeveloped guilt complex.

Amy Morin is considered the new guru of mental health. She is a psychotherapist who wrote the book 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do after recovering from a series of traumatic events in her life. In the worldwide bestseller, she observed that one of the things that keep us feeling depressed is the tendency to get stuck in history.

We can’t blame those people. I assume ruminating gives people some relief. I don’t know why and what kind but they seem to find refuge in it. So, I won’t judge.

Let me just share what Dr. Morin said: some people “subconsciously think, If I stay miserable long enough, I’ll be able to forgive myself. You may not be even aware that deep down, you don’t believe you deserve happiness.”

“You’ll miss out on experiencing new opportunities and celebrating the joys of today if you’re distracted by things that have already occurred,” wrote Morin.

Dr. Morin reassured that mentally strong people can “make peace with the past” if they “focus on the lessons learned” and “look at the situation differently.”

She cited the bittersweet story of James Barrie. James was six when his 13-year old brother died. The inconsolable mother asked James to “never grow up” so he could be a substitute for his dead brother. Barrie lived a life as someone else. “His attempt to stay a boy seemed to stunt his physical growth as he hardly reached five feet tall.”

Later on, James Barrie used his life experience to write Peter Pan or The Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up, one of the world’s immortal tales!

Andrew Newberg and Mark Robert Waldman are scientists and brain researchers who wrote the book How God Changes Your Brain. They noted that mental habits are not that easy to change. “Old neural circuits do not disappear, especially if they are tinged with negative or stressful memories.”

So, they recommend three things: “a conscious commitment to make a small improvement every day, a good dose of social support to help you honor that commitment, and a healthy serving of optimism and faith.”

Many scientists agree that negative thoughts lead to physical diseases and a shorter life. So, if we’re not ready to forgive other people now, maybe we can, at least, forgive ourselves already. We need not dwell on the past that we cannot change if we can look at the future we’re just about to make.

Whatever we’ve been through, our life has not ended yet. It is just about to begin.

I am writing this article at a time of Lent. My cousin, who is a priest, said that “lent” came from the Old English “lencten” which means “spring.” Spring is the time nature renews itself.


“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” Lamentations 3:22-23
How to get unstuck from the past How to get unstuck from the past Reviewed by Robert Labayen on 11:18 PM Rating: 5

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