Thursday, November 10, 2011

Yesterday is a Memory

A therapist once told me that depression is rooted in the past: regrets, guilt and not being able to deal with things that happened in the past. Those events grab us and refuse to let go, influencing and often ruining or self-esteem, our relationships and our general outlook and response to life.

Breaking the chains that shackle us to past events is critical to being able to move forward. I wish it was as easy as “just letting go” but often it isn’t. Sometimes we need the help of a professional … and there is nothing wrong with that. As a black woman, I come from a culture that often equates therapy with weakness when in fact nothing can be further from the truth. Therapy can be the strongest, bravest things you can do for yourself.

Other times, you don’t need a therapist, you need to change your way of thinking. Sometimes it comes over time, other times it takes hard work. My mom died when I was 15. The last time I saw her I left in anger. I lived with the guilt of that for years. It took me becoming an adult to realize that she probably realized that I was 15. My behavior was an episode of teenage psychosis and she knew that. She still knew that I loved her. It took time to come to that realization, but once I had it, I was able to let go.

On the other hand, after a bad experience dating a pathological liar, cheater and conman, it would have been easy to paint all men with that dark and evil brush. So, I got to work. I tried to find the lessons in that whole sorry experience. Most importantly, I realized that he was one man and was not a representative of all men. Ironically, the next man I met was the same age, height and from the same city as the conman. Yet, I judged this new man on his own merits and not on the behavior of the one that came before him. Gratefully, he is nothing like the other guy and would not have deserved to pay for the other guy’s actions.

Letting go of the past is critical to being able to live today, which is the goal. We cannot do anything about yesterday. All we can do is learn from it, make amends for it and move beyond it.

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