Letting Go of the Past

Posted on Posted in Carl Jung Quotes

Letting go of your past isn’t about forgetting it, or even forgiving it (though the latter has its psychological benefits).  Letting go of the past is more about letting go of wishing it had been something else.

Many people hold on to their past like a crutch.  Unknowingly, they use it as an excuse for their current state of hopelessness in life.  This is no course for future happiness, much less success.  Clinging to the past in that way only traps you in the mindstate – in the expectation – that it should have been different for you.

… no matter how much parents and grandparents have sinned against the child, the man who is really adult will accept these sins as his own condition which has to be reckoned with. Only a fool is interested in other people’s guilt, since he cannot alter it. The wise man learns only from his own guilt. He will ask himself: Who am I that all this should happen to me? To find the answer to this fateful question he will look into his own heart.

C.G. Jung, CW vol 12 par 152

You Can Change the Past

People always say, “You can’t go back and change the past,” but this is not necessarily true.  In a sense, you can change the past.  And when you do so, everything about your present – and thus your future – changes also.  I know you must be wondering, “how can you change your past?”  You can change the past by changing your perspective of it. This is what Jung meant when he said that we must ask ourselves, “Who am I that all this should happen to me?”

Your past does not define you. How you respond to it defines you.  “What was given to us by the past is adapted to the possibilities of the future.”

If you really want to change your past, then you have to go back and retrieve whatever piece of you was left behind in that past.  In order to become whole now, you have to give yourself what you were missing then.  You have to reconnect with that lost part of yourself, hold on to it, bring it into the now, and get it up to speed, so to speak.  For  many people, this is the initial phase of Jungian Analysis. Through dream interpretation, we can not only find those lost pieces of ourselves, but also the inner resources which will revitalize them.

In a sense, actively working with the past means that you have to go back and relive it, but in a way that is not obsessive and destructive, which is the way that most people deal with a traumatic past.  Try to see what you learned from your past, what you gained from any traumatic experiences, and how those experiences made you who you are today.  Embrace the person you have become, no matter who or what you have become.  There is a way to let your past empower you, but only you can realize that.  No one else can tell you what it is.  Trust yourself.

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