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When difficult or challenging events from the past arise many people have a tendency to either be overwhelmed by the feelings that come or they try to ignore them, often by repeating the mantra, “Be in the Now”. Neither strategy brings resolution, and by that I mean, there is no integration of the experience into our understanding and being (no re-solution).
Every time something re-surfaces in the present from the past, it is an opportunity to see something now that we could not, for whatever reason, see then. If we hold the past as fixed and sure, then any new information will rattle our foundation and cause us to feel afraid and vulnerable. However, if, in the midst of our fear we remember that any view we have of the past is incomplete and that new information is being offered that will enable us to have an expanded understanding of past events, then not only can the past be seen more clearly and completely, but we can know ourselves more deeply and fully now.

So, when something comes up from the past, you are offered an opportunity to take another look. What can you see now that you could not see then? See if you can shift your focus from being totally inside your younger self (even if the event just happened yesterday, you were younger then) to include an awareness of the fuller context and the other people involved. It’s kind of like watching a movie, where you pretty much know you are safe in your theatre seat (barring a few heart-stopping moments, perhaps) and you can see what’s going on more clearly for everyone, yourself included. You feel with/for the characters, sometimes more than one at a time, and you can see things the characters cannot. I am not saying this is an easy thing to do. But if you hang in with yourself, let yourself remember and feel all that was going on in the past situation, you can also experience compassion and an ever deepening understanding of yourself and the other people involved. All of the feelings that arise are important to allow to pass through you; sorrow, anger, resentment, joy, fear, disappointment, love, whatever, but without getting lost in them, just like you can when you watch a movie. Your feelings are important. They help you to re-connect with the past experience deeply which can allow you to see things more fully. But without a clear focus on what you intend by looking at the past, your feelings can take over the reins and cause you to lose track of a great opportunity for truth and clarity.

It can be difficult to do this on your own, so you might want to talk it through with someone you trust. This will give you the opportunity to talk about what happened, about how you feel about it, what you remember of your thoughts and feelings at the time of the event, how you see things now, what you know now that you did not know then. At the same time, their presence and attention can remind you it is not happening now. Remember you are looking for a more whole view of the past experience in this moment. And, if you are really going to re-consider a past event, it helps to recall that to consider means to view carefully, to treat with respect and esteem.

Through re-consideration, the past is truly re-membered, brought home, integrated into the present by the person you are now. You cannot change the events of the past, but you can improve upon your understanding of them and this shifts your relationship with them. ‘Then’ only defines you ‘Now’ if you try to hold on to yourself as you understood yourself then. Find a way to see yourself and the situation then, from here and now, and your then and now and your future, too, will be experienced more fully and expansively.

Additional note for people who are looking to reconcile with religious doctrine….
Repentance is akin to reconsideration but it takes things a bit further . According to Wikipedia, one definition of repentance is “a change of thought and action to correct a wrong and gain forgiveness from a person who is wronged. In religious contexts it usually refers to confession to God, ceasing sin against God, and resolving to live according to religious law.” However, some religious scholars believe the original translation of the concept of repentance is ‘to look again,” (reconsider) and that to sin means “to miss the mark” (mis-understand or mis-behave). With these translations in mind, repentance can be seen as ‘an intentional opening to deeper understanding of past events or old beliefs which often results in increased compassion for self and others which, naturally, affects future actions.’ It logically follows that, if you truly see things differently, you will act differently. But understanding comes and goes and old habits are sometimes slow to change, so it can take a while for understanding to hold and for behavior to come into alignment.