Our past takes root in the present, interfering with our functioning. However we can resolve our past issues, leading us to greater happiness. Dr. Harold Bloomfield, author of Making Peace with your Past: The Six Essential Steps to Enjoying a Great Future, states that, “Part of making peace with the past is learning new habits of self-care.” (2000, p.41). Here are five actions developed by Dr. Harold Bloomfield to help you make friends with your past.
1. Reframing Your Past
Bloomfield states that, “An essential part of the peacemaking process is learning to see your life story in a new light, to expand your vision of who you are so you can think truly original thoughts and reshape your destiny” (2000, p.10). It takes courage to find the wisdom gained from painful experiences in your life. Seeing your past through the eyes of “glass half full” helps one to put challenging experiences in perspective.
When I was a child, I had a parent with a chronic illness. As challenging as this experience was, it helped me to develop qualities such as patience, sensitivity and determination.
Reflection: In what ways have your painful experiences been catalyst for growth?
2. Accepting What Is and What Isn’t
Bloomfield reflects that, “There is great peace in accepting what is for what it is and what was for what it was. In and of itself, acceptance defuses the past and loosens its grip on your life. What was done can’t be undone or wished away” (2000, p. 43). Our past is something we can’t change. The act of acceptance lifts the burden of the past. Knowing that you can’t change it frees up mental energy that was wasted on regret and self-pity.
I once felt like my past was this heavy burden that I carried through life. Accepting the challenges of my particular childhood helped me to put aside some of pain. Accepting my particular scars from childhood opened the path for me to see the other side of the coin: the joys of my childhood.
Reflection: How can you move to a place of acceptance of your childhood pain?
3. Showing Gratitude
Bloomfield writes that, “On one level, gratitude is the ability to appreciate the blessings you have been given. On a higher level, it is the ability to not only accept whatever life offers you, but to receive it thankfully, knowing that there is something to be gained even from the tribulations” (2000, p.43-44). Taking a grateful attitude diffuses negative emotions. Gratitude is the ability to welcome experiences and be thankful of what lessons you learn.
A helpful approach to practicing gratitude is writing out all that you are grateful for and posting it as a daily reminder. I did this and posted it above my desk. Glancing at it when I was struggling with a difficult emotion was a great reminder to be thankful for all that I am given.
Reflection: What are you grateful for?
4. Find Inspiration
Bloomfield declares that, “A healthy spiritual perspective accepts that what you experienced is real and must be dealt with – and also that there is a higher, nobler way of seeing that can add purpose to your healing” (2000, p.45). Developing our spiritual connection helps to strengthen our resolve to find peace. Knowledge found in many spiritual traditions can help you find your way when you are struggling to resolve past issues.
In my early twenties when I was struggling with illness, my friend gave my some Buddhist books. They became a great source of comfort for me and almost twelve years later I still turn to Buddhism for help.
Reflection: What spiritual practices help you through life?
5. Stay Present
Bloomfield eloquently argues that, “In the act of becoming fully aware of the present moment, not ruminating about the past or pondering the future, you can immediately start to suffer less” (2000, p.46). Staying present is the point where you can experience joy, unconditionally accepting all that was, that is and that will be.
I often have anxieties about new social situations, the future or trying new activities. I use yoga and breath work to bring myself back to the present, where I find peace.
Reflection: What tools do you use to bring you to the present?
It is difficult making peace with past events; however, if you adopt Bloomfield’s five habits it will be easier. Start will reframing the past and seeing it from the perspective of what was learned and gained. Accepting what is helps to focus on the present. A grateful attitude gives purpose to life’s suffering. Inspiration from a spiritual tradition creates meaning from the past. Finally, focusing on the present helps you connect with the joy of being alive.