As much as it may suck sometimes, the past cannot be changed: fact. What we can change though, is our reaction to past events.
We’re all capable of holding grudges for years and years, most of the time without even realising it! More often than not we forget the actual words that were exchanged, or even the topic which caused the disagreement. But what leaves a lasting impression is that feeling that we experienced.
Perhaps it was one of anger, or disappointment, betrayal, or sadness. As Maya Angelou once said, “people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
I know this to be true from personal experience. I’m typically not one to hold grudges (if I really think about it, I can’t count more than four instances in my entire life, I swear!), but I had a major fallout with some members of my family a few years back. I recall the general gist of our heated argument, but can I remember word for word what was said? No. Truth be told, I don’t even remember when exactly it happened. Even the things I’m certain I do remember being said, have probably been embellished over time by my over-active imagination! But what I cannot forget is the disrespect that I felt that day. Whenever I recall the conversation that was had, it still feels like a fresh slap around my face.
Now this might sound crazy, but up until very recently, I genuinely thought I was over the entire thing. I was sure that I had put it to bed years ago! I only realised that its claws were still deeply embedded in me when I told the story to a new friend the other day. As I was explaining what had happened, I started getting worked up, feeling agitated and angry the more and more I divulged. The next day out of nowhere it suddenly hit me, I wasn’t over it! I wouldn’t have reacted so strongly if I was! I’d given these people who I hadn’t spoken to in years the keys to my mind, the power to influence my mood and to affect my energy. And I was not ok with that!
Like I said, we can’t change the past, nor can we control other people’s actions, but we can overcome that toxic feeling that we harbour thereafter, by altering how we choose to process the situation now.
I’m not saying that we should forget whatever happened to us entirely, no way José. We should always take something away from every life experience we have and use it to become stronger and wiser, like we’re adding another patch to our armour. But we do need to dissect the issue and face it head on if we truly want to be released from it.
How does it make me feel when I think about this event? Why do I feel these emotions? Who is ultimately being affected by my decision to hold on to these negative emotions? Do I feel like it’s adding or detracting from my energy when I relive this event? And depending on the severity of the issue at hand, is it possible to put myself in the other person’s shoes for a second and try to see them as a regular, flawed human being, rather than an evil monster out to get me?
If I look back at the fallout I had with my relatives, I still don’t rate them for the things they said to me and I choose to keep my distance from them for the foreseeable future in order to protect my own energy, because that comes first. However, I can now see that the experience affected me in the way that it did ultimately because they didn’t meet the expectations that I had of them. And that left me feeling betrayed and disappointed. I just assumed that being my blood relatives and my elders, that they would always have my back. But now I see that’s partly on me too, I shouldn’t have been so blindly trusting without good reason; something I’m much more aware of now. I also believe that when a person shows you their true colours, you should believe them. So at the end of the day I’m grateful that I was able to see the truth sooner rather than later, and the way I see it, the truth can never be a bad thing. Plus it’s definitely taught me important lessons on how NOT to treat others, how to be mindful of other people’s feelings, and that I should always choose my words carefully because they carry a lot of weight. So I choose to let go off any ill-thoughts I’ve been holding towards them as of right now.
Sometimes it’s not that things happen to us, it’s that they happen for us. For us to learn a lesson, to grow. Even though at the time it may seem like there is no silver lining, we need to train our minds to seek out that light at the end of the tunnel. There is always a bigger picture, trust me on that.
Plus a bit of self-awareness can come in handy in times like this too. When it comes to me, I know I can be quite competitive, so I take advantage of that. I like to see these things as a test of my character; I imagine a devil on my shoulder smirking, telling me I’ll stew in this pool of misery forever and that I’ll always have bad feelings towards those people. But to him I say, hell no, not today mate, you don’t know me, I can overcome anything! And I will not be bound by anyone or anything.
At the end of the day, we only hurt ourselves by holding on to negativity, that’s hardly rocket science though, right? You know that as well as I do, yet we continue to do it any way!
But no more. In the words of Elsa, let’s all take a deep breath and “Let it goooooo”. 😀