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How to Heal the Pain of the Past

“Each of you choose those life conditions that you have for your own purpose, knowing ahead of time where your weaknesses and strengths lie.” (Seth Speaks, Jane Roberts)

One of the most significant experiences in my life was to truly break free from the past and let go of the pain that haunted me for many years.

To explain how I did this, let me start by sharing the circumstances that created my pain.

I had a really good childhood, but things changed when I became an adolescent.

I grew up in a Kibbutz – a communal way of living in Israel – and in the 7th grade my classmates and I joined a half-boarding school with kids from 3 other Kibbutzim.

That brought me to a state of terrible insecurity – I was intimidated by those new children, didn’t dare to talk to them, and avoided their company. And I soon became a target of bullying.

Back then, my nose was a bit big and curved and the nickname I was given was “disgusting owl”. It was written on my desk and said to me as I walked down the hall. Since we also slept in the school, I could barely escape it.
It was extremely humiliating and painful.

As a consequence, I became an expert at hiding myself. I would stay in bed and skip class, or try to make myself invisible when I had to go.

In the eighties, and in that society in particular, it wasn’t uncommon to overlook such things. You were just expected to conform to the norms and be like everyone else. And, therefore, I told no one what was happening, not even my mother. And no one, on the other hand, asked.

When I finished school and went to the army things have improved dramatically. Suddenly I had friends, and men started noticing me and complimenting me, whereas before I didn’t talk to boys and thought I was the ugliest creature on earth.

Nevertheless, for many years after, I continued to bear self-pity and bitterness over what had happened to me. I believed I was less fortunate than others and blamed the problems I was facing on my past circumstances.

How your painful past can become an old story

My identification with my painful past experiences started to dissolve when I was 27. Back then I participated in “The Landmark Forum” seminar, and on the first day we were given an exercise; each of us had to write our painful story of the past, and afterward, we sat in pairs and shared our stories with each other. We repeated our stories over and over again until no painful emotion was left.

When I started telling my story and pronounced the names I’ve been called, I cried. I doubted the exercise, “This was really terrible and it will remain so no matter how many times I will tell it,” I thought.

But to my surprise, it worked! After a couple of times, the emotions associated with the story were gone.
I warmly recommend this exercise to anyone. However, I don’t think this was the only reason my emotional baggage had completely dissolved. After all, in workshops like that, there’s often a sense of catharsis that fades away over time.

To my understanding, the main reason my past is no longer present in my life is due to my understanding that there is no one to blame for what happened.

When things happen in life – we are being bullied, our parents hurt us or don’t do something we believe they were supposed to do – we tend to lay the blame on those who hurt us and hold them accountable for our life circumstances.

In my case, there were several people who could easily be blamed for what happened.

My mother, who noticed something was wrong and didn’t say anything direct.

But she went through something similar and even much worse when she grew up, and she must have been overwhelmed by the thought that this was happening to me too.

I could insist that she should have said/done something nonetheless, but I know she just couldn’t. She was really an amazing and loving mother, but only human.

I could blame the educational staff and say, “You saw a child alone all the time, not going to the dining room, and avoiding class. You probably knew people mocked me and yet you never approached me.”

But I don’t blame them either. This is how it was back then in that society.

And obviously, I could blame the “bad” children who bullied me.

But let me tell you a secret – when I was in elementary school I participated in bullying other girls in my class.
So am I a bad person too? I don’t think so. I was a child who didn’t understand the consequences of her actions. With feelings of inferiority and need for power. Just like the ones who were bullying me.

It’s only natural to feel anger towards someone who hurt you. But when you insist they could have done things differently – the anger lasts for long, even for a lifetime, and festers.

Forgiveness

Once we give up blame, there’s no one to forgive. And we do that not by a rational choice or hard effort, it simply happens when we understand from deep within that there is no one to blame.

Yes, people make mistakes, sometimes terrible mistakes. What I’ve been through is nothing. For 14 years now, as a life coach, I have talked to people who’ve been through much worse things than I was – abuse, beating, rape.

When such things happen, it’s easy to throw accusations around and say that people are evil; to blame the parents who ruined your life, the partner who abused you, or even the kids who bullied and scarred you; it’s easy to condemn and to hate.

But even though people do horrible things to each other, including to their own children, when you understand how little control many of them have over their feelings and reactions, and how unconscious they are, you realize there is no one there to lay the blame on.

And before you hurry to say, “So they should have gotten professional help,” keep in mind that treatment has never helped someone who cannot help themselves.

It’s not that I’m letting anyone off the hook by saying that; I’m simply stating a fact.

Another thing that helps in this context is to honestly look at ourselves and try to understand what in us brought us the results we were getting.

In my case, I could say it was because of how I looked (although I’m not bad looking, back then I didn’t look good at all), still, there are children who look worse than I looked who are not being bullied.

Over the years I have identified a couple of things that affected my situation:

1. Feelings of inferiorly that had built up in me until then for various reasons were the ground for my social anxiety. My fear, in turn, was intuitively felt by the bullies who reacted to it like a dog smelling fear and attacking.

2. I was filled with a negative and aggressive energy that drew fire in my direction.

Since my twin sister was more popular and pretty than I was, at home I demonstrated forcefulness towards her and sometimes felt the need to degrade her.

I clearly remember thinking to myself, “If she’s stronger outside, I will be stronger at home.” (Thankfully this is long behind us and today we are best friends.)

If you carry negative, aggressive, or violent energy within you, it will inevitably affect the way people treat you, even if it has nothing to do with the person who hurts you, and even if no one can witness it.

The impact of non-forgiveness

When we hold on to our anger, resentment, and grudges, we cultivate destructive energy that creates stress, melancholy, anxiety, and depression, and is a fertile ground for the development of ailments.

The victim-villain narrative behind our accusations affects our self-esteem too. Because when we repeat the wrongdoings of others, for a moment we feel better about ourselves. Yet, on a subconscious level, when we do that, it’s as if we were telling ourselves: “If I won’t keep validating my superiority, I’ll feel how small and unworthy I am.”

And all of this is based on a fictitious story that insists the other person should (and hence could) have acted differently.

“On some level it will always hurt” Is that so?

When people talk about their past, they often say, “On some level it will always hurt.” And I’m here to say, “Not necessarily!”

Not if you choose to learn from what happened and take full responsibility for your current circumstances.

Although there are moments I forget it, I fully believe in the quote at the beginning of this article. I believe that we choose our life circumstances in advance and that we do so for a reason – the development of our souls.

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