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You can’t change the past but you can change what the past means
One of the richest parts of my life over the past few years has been interviewing dozens of friends, clients and family members about their past choices. In these beautiful and exquisite deep dive explorations I’ve witnessed a common thread which is how brilliantly we craft artful stories based on shameful elements of our past choices that prevent us from moving forward as we’d like to now.
Examining past choices can be uncomfortable because it’s likely that you didn’t make every choice from the highest, cleanest place. If you had your older, wiser, more experienced self to ask for support at the time you made your less-than-perfect choice, you likely wouldn’t have made that choice. But you didn’t.
It’s not unusual, when you reflect upon a past choice, to create an internal story about who you were because of that choice. We then carry those stories around with us, as if they’re truth, repeating them both to ourselves and to others. We often become robotic in our repetition of those stories, not even realizing we’re in story-telling versus truth-telling mode.
What if the story you so cleverly concocted isn’t true anymore, and doesn’t serve who you are at this time?
Maybe you’ve created a story about money, or how you parent, or were parented, or how you showed up in a personal or professional relationship, or how you treated yourself.
Exploring my past choices, and taking others on journeys to explore theirs, I’ve had a unique vantage point in witnessing how powerfully we hold onto our stories. In turn, they affect and impede us in our quest to make healthy present-day choices. If you’re anything like me, you’ve made choices you’re not proud of. You’ve done something you wish you hadn’t, said something you wish you didn’t, hurt someone who didn’t deserve it. You may be sitting with pain around the shame of a bad choice. For your own growth and healing, it’s important to let that pain go. But the question is, how do you let it go?
The simplest truth I’ve learned is: before you can let it go, you must acknowledge what you’re in pain about so you can address it head on. Healing begins with awareness. With awareness, you can look at your pain for what it is, own it, and see how that pain is showing up so you can do the necessary work to heal.
It’s possible you feel shame for things you don’t speak about, or even acknowledge to yourself. Many of us feel shame for how we spend money. We feel shame for how we’ve treated others, and for how we treat ourselves. We feel shame for what we eat. We feel shame for how we lied to others about how we’re living our life. We feel shame for how others have treated us, which causes us to feel bad about ourselves.
We sit with lots of shame.
And, this perilous shame often goes unspoken to our dearest of friends, to our closest of family, to our deepest selves. Some of our shame sits in the forefront of our thoughts. Other shame resides in the deep recesses of our mind, not available for conscious recollection, but insidiously damaging who we have the potential to be
The I Ching reveals a beautiful solution to
grappling with these kinds of choices:
“It’s only when we have the courage to face things exactly
as they are without any self-deception or illusion, that
a light will develop out of events by which the path
to success may be recognized.”
Shame can isolate you. Shame can cause you to feel no one could ever understand what you’ve done or what you’ve gone through. Shame can leave you feeling judged and alone. It’s very common to think if someone knew why you feel ashamed, they’d leave, they’d reject you. You may assume no one would understand and no one would love you if they knew your truth.
The shame we feel is rooted in our past actions, past choices, past thoughts. It leads us to create stories about ourselves that we bring into our present live. Maybe it’s a story about money, or how you parented or were parented, or how you showed up in a personal or professional relationship, or how you even treated yourself.
These stories we tell to ourselves, and often to others, feel so rooted in what we believe to be truth that we can’t see our way out of them.
During this class, we’re going to get to the bottom of your stories, and you’re going to retell them. We’re going to see what’s truth and what’s not. We’re going to examine where your story began and what it’ll take to shift your thoughts and language to tell a new story that serves you for where you want to go. We’re going to see how it’s benefitted you to keep telling your old story, even though each time you hear if pass through your lips, you know there’s an element of bullshit.
We’ll be a small group and this will be deep and intimate work. If this resonates with you, please join me and share this with any of your friends that would benefit as well.
We’ll meet virtually via a Zoom conference Tuesdays at 7 PM Eastern.