Finding Freedom From the Past


No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man. Heraclitus 

I often have clients come to my office who are fearful about things in their lives.  One person might fear that a new venture might fail, another might fear getting sick and others might fear that they will never have a long term relationship.  Although it is hard to always figure out where our fears and worries originate, I find that it often stems from some event in our past that is making us hold on a little too tight.

Interestingly, it is often easier to see the link between past and current fears with children than it is with adults.  For instance, a few years ago, my older daughter was bitten by a dog.  The bite became infected and she needed to take antibiotics.  Afterwards, every time a dog was near, I would see her entire body tense up.  My younger daughter got a stomachache at a sleepover last year and needed to come home in the middle of the night.  Since then, her interest in sleepovers has diminished and she came home from a subsequent sleepover with a stomachache.  Her thoughts were automatically going to “I have a sleepover, this will be bad and I will need to go home.”

As adults, past experiences can be plaguing us the same way, creating fears and making us afraid of illness, new beginnings and continuously make us believe the worst is on its way. So how do we live free of the past if we really don’t know the source of what is holding us back? I know some people try to just rid themselves of a negative or fearful thought by replacing it with a positive one, but for many it just starts a battle between positive and negative thinking throughout the day, which is exhausting and hard to maintain.

For me, when I first feel my resistance or fear about a situation, I say to myself,  “Maybe this fearful thought is not true.” It is like a trigger in my mind allowing me to engage in another possibility other than the one I fear the most.  Sure, the situation that I am fearing could not work out, but MAYBE it can and that mindset is all I need to have hope and allow me to recognize that the past does not control my future.  Maybe whatever I am experiencing is good, Maybe it can get better or Maybe I can accept what I am experiencing and still be okay.  The words are very simple, but the freedom I feel is quite profound.

I believe it is also an incredible remedy for our children to bounce back from experiences that make them afraid or worried.  When my daughter and I see a dog in the street we sometimes look at each other and say Maybe and smile.  I see her body relax because she knows that just because she got bit years ago does not mean it will happen again. My younger daughter also uses Maybe when she thinks about going on her next sleepover.  She knows that with the idea of Maybe she could go to her friend’s house and feel fine.  And if she does get sick, Maybe that is okay too.  She has enough space in her mind and her heart to allow her to have another experience at her friend’s house without only the doom and gloom scenario that happened in the past.

You will be very surprised if you allow yourself to believe in Maybe you will experience more freedom in your life. You, as well as your children, will no longer get paralyzed at every little mishap or feel disappointed, because you realize that the next moment will bring a new experience. In this way, the past can no longer hold you hostage.

Maybe is a bridge that helps us leave our past experience behind and leads us to a new place where we can believe that all may be well.

Allison Carmen is the author of The Gift of Maybe: Finding Hope and Possibilities in Uncertain Times.

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Copyright Allison Carmen 2016

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