Most of us think the past is behind us and cannot be changed.
What we fail to notice is that the past can only exist through the lens of the present – you’re always IN the present and looking back, so your feelings in this moment change the shape of the memory – and how you feel in this moment is influenced by so many different things.
We all have a history that’s shaped who we are today but if that history becomes the reason for the way things are in the present, it’s easy to get stuck.
Then again, simply knowing this isn’t enough to get unstuck.
What does this have to do with joy?
I’m fascinated by how the mind makes meaning and how it has the capacity to either trap us or give us purpose and joy – how the same experience in one person’s life can be the reason they shoot for the stars while someone else reaches for a bottle and hides from the world.
I think the difference comes from our connection with another point on our timeline – the future.
Once a future can be imagined – one we like the look of – the past can potentially be seen through a different lens. It’s like our future self can reach through time and hand us the very glasses we need to change the way we see the past.
Whether and how we connect to the future seems then to the key in changing how we interact with our past – for some of us at least.
For others, this isn’t a choice. Their experiences have made the future too difficult or scary to imagine and they are trapped in the present; tortured by the past. But for those of us who can envisage the future and aim for it, we have choices to make about the role our past will play in the decisions we make today.
As Jordan Peterson says, “You are the thing that is and the thing that becomes.”