How Much of Your Past is Holding You Back?

Are you an eternal optimist—no matter what goes wrong, you feel that it will all work out in the end? Or are you feeling trapped, seeing no way out of your troubles and losing hope?

We all have hopes and dreams but many have given up on achieving them. They remain in the recesses of your mind where there are tucked away nice and safe. You’ve acclimated to the ways of your surroundings in an effort to comfort yourself, but deep inside you have dreams. Big dreams.

The question then is, what is holding you back from achieving your dreams? If you’ve attended motivational seminars, or you’ve prayed, or you’ve even taken some steps with no real progress to show, perhaps the wall you hit each time could be your past.

In an effort to move forward, sometimes you need to look back. Not to dwell, but to evaluate. Just like in school, when you need to review what you’ve already covered before you move on to the next thing.

The problem is that most people don’t like to look at their past. And if they do it is through rose-colored glasses. They don’t assume responsibility for mistakes they’ve made, or they blame others and pretend that what transpired didn’t affect them.

There is one exercise that is common for me to give my clients. It’s called “Look back with love.” This step is crucial for anyone who is feeling stuck. When you are feeling like you keep hitting a wall no matter what you do to try to go after a long-held goal or desire, it probably isn’t due to a problem that occurred yesterday or over dinner last week. It’s much more likely the result of a decision or an event that occurred way in the past.

Perhaps you were constantly ignored in your family growing up and now you over-compensate by consistently trying too hard. You feel this is a good thing but it’s burning you out and causing you to be impatient and suffer health issues.

Or perhaps you were sexually abused in childhood and now you have trouble relating to others on an intimate level. These are just a few examples of how your past can hold you back from the bright future you desire.

How do I recognize if my past is holding me back, you ask? Here are some behaviors that provide clues:

  • You over-react to situations. Some situations call for a strong reaction. For example, if you walked in on your spouse having sex with your best friend, you wouldn’t say, “Oh, no, that’s not good. I thought we agreed that we would be faithful.”  That would be too mild, to say the least! On the other hand, if your reaction was to head to the kitchen to grab the sharpest knife, that’s a super strong reaction that is cause for pause.
  • You explode when things don’t go your way. We all suffer disappointments in life, but how we handle them determines the next steps and possibly the course of our life. Some people have been so hindered by their past that they don’t know how to relate in a healthy way, so they explode when things don’t go their way. Think of this as a temper tantrum. I know we may laugh when we see a two year old do it but when a grown up does it, it’s not so funny. Sadly many adults have not matured past a certain childhood age because of a trauma that has affected them. If this is you, it’s time to break free.
  • You retreat. Unlike the exploders who lash out and throw fits to control people, retreaters handle their past issues in an inward manner. Like exploders, retreaters also don’t know how to handle themselves in trying situations, but their end result is isolation. Many retreaters can hide for a great number of years behind acts of kindness and a sweet disposition, but they are hurting inside. In fact, it’s the retreaters who have the highest suicide rate and everyone around them says they wouldn’t have even known this person was hurting. If you are a retreater, it’s time to come out from behind the walls of protection that are only keeping you disconnected.

We would all like to be free from the harmful things we encountered in the past, but it can seem overwhelming to do the healing that needs to be done in order to get there. I promise you, you absolutely can overcome your past and break free to the future you’ve always wanted. No matter what happened in the past, whether it’s fresh on your mind or hidden in the deepest recesses of your psyche, God can and will heal whatever you reveal, and your future is GUARANTEED to be bright. If you don’t believe me, you can take His word for it.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11.

In my book Building a Beautiful Life Out of Broken Pieces readers are guided through a gentle yet freeing process of healing from their past and moving forward into an abundant life. If you need help, please don’t hesitate to reach out. There’s too much beauty waiting for you to remain stuck.

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