‘The past is never where you think you left it.’

― Katherine Anne Porter

I have a question for you.
Who’s the boss of you?

My answer to this question is always, without hesitation, Bruce ‘The Boss’ Springsteen. But back on planet Earth, my answer to this question will often be in debate.

One recent evening I was cleaning my teeth and as I was standing there brushing away, I realised that my stomach was churning with anxiety. On investigating the trigger of this feeling, I quickly realised that it wasn’t being caused by a current struggle in my life but instead simply a voice in my head that was from a time in my distant past. As the anxiety stirred away deep within, it occurred to me how bizarre it is that a voice such a long way from me now in time and location could still be having such a strong and negative effect on my body.

The human truth is…
When we come out the other side of difficult times in our life we are left with a plethora of words, phrases, voices and inner imagery from something that once caused us emotional or physical pain.

The bad news is that while we might be aware that we are now moving forward in our life,  these imprints can move forward with us. The good news however is that with time these imprints will quieten and begin to fade away as they get replaced with new experiences that are hopefully of a more positive variety. But in that in-between time, these old imprints can be a continued trigger for various types of discomfort within us.

A glimpse inside the mind
A recent study by psychology experts at Queen’s University in Canada discovered a method for detecting when a thought begins and ends. They describe each thought as a “thought worm”. This means that they are able to give an approximation of the number of thoughts humans have in a day. The figure estimated is 6,200.

So this explains why our heads don’t just feel full of clutter. They actually are full of clutter of both the positive and negative variety. An inner cacophony of words spoken, looks given, experiences had and we can easily feel overwhelmed by this noise. It is important to remember though, that we all have voices from many different times in our life that stay with us. This is a tiny yet grand part of what makes us human. Another great part of what makes us human though, is the power of choice and we can use this superpower to choose what kind of influence we will allow these imprints from times past to have over our present moment.

Positive action that YOU can take
When we come into awareness that there is a historical voice in our head that is causing discomfort within us, we can use both verbal language and body language to separate ourselves from the imprint. When we apply the following method we take active and conscious control over the unconscious controlling forces within us and begin to take the power out of them.

Next time you find yourself feeling anxious because of something that belongs in your past, try the following:

  1. As soon as you notice the trigger, pause any unconscious engagement with it as this only feeds it. It wants you to react and engage in a negative and unconstructive way as this gives it life!

  2. Step back (literally) out of the space you are currently in. This movement breaks the spell and begins the separation process. It can be a simple step to the side, standing up from the couch or even moving into another room. You just need to move out of the trigger’s space.

  3. Now look back at the space you’ve moved out of and then look around at your current surroundings. Notice how you are actually in a very different place in your life to the time where this memory once lived.

  4. Personally, I like to then have a conversation with the trigger as this literally turns the volume up on my own taking back control and calls it out for what it is. Something that isn’t real or relevant in my life any more.

    An example of this monologue might be: ‘Hey I see you old friend. You’re from my past right? Yeah I thought I recognised you. I’m not in that place now though so I’m going to have to tell you that I’m not interested anymore in this conversation. I’ve got new and far happier things going on in my life now………’ you get the gist!

  5. And then you walk away from the conversation, both mentally and physically, and continue your day in your beautiful present state.

There are many other powerful ways to create separation from triggers of discomfort within us but a simple disconnect at the moment the trigger is noticed is a great place to start.

So here’s my suggestion to you
Don’t give others the privilege of having any control over you. Either when they’re standing right there in front of you or are a voice from your distant past. Use your superpower of choice along with the above technique to help take back the ownership of ‘you’ and keep ‘control over you’ as the most precious of privileges that you reserve for yourself.

Oh and go listen to the Boss!

‘We are products of our past but we don’t have to be prisoners of it.’

Rick Warren