Read an Excerpt
Making Peace with Your PastHealing a Painful PastHurt Was Inevitable,
The Six Essential Steps to Enjoying a Great Future
Suffering Is OptionalThose who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.
The three most profound questions in every person's life are: Who am I? Where did I come from? Where am I going? This book will help you explore and answer all three. As you unravel the tangled web of your past, you will be able to extract from it the golden thread that is your essence and weave your future into a bold, brilliant tapestry.
Scientific research, depth psychology, and the great wisdom traditions of every culture all strongly concur that the root cause of human suffering is the accumulation of unprocessed experience from the past. In my 30 years as a psychotherapist and seminar leader, I have learned that no one can experience true love, or a joyful presence, or create an optimal future until he or she makes peace with the past. People come to therapy to deal with an immediate crisis or persistent problem. They are often depressed about the present or anxious about the future. But without exception, they soon discover that the pain and chaos of the present have origins in the past. To understand themselves and move forward with confidence and freedom, they must reflect on what brought them to this moment. Aspects of their personal history that are holding them back must be confronted and resolved; aspects that can rejuvenate their creativity and strength-the fun and wonder of childhood, for instance, or the visionary enthusiasm of adolescence- need to be rediscovered and resurrected.
Without a doubt, many of the here-and-now conflicts people have with their spouses, lovers, bosses, or children are, in part, reenactments of incidents that happened earlier in their lives.
Here are some examples from the people I'm currently seeing in my practice:
- Mary feels resentful and ashamed because her husband ran off with her best friend three years earlier. Beautiful, rich, and a well-known dermatologist, deep down she still can't get over the shock of having her charmed life torn apart. She is so mistrustful that she can't allow herself to get really close to any man or woman.
- James torments himself for squandering his inheritance in day trading and high-risk investments. Seeing his business school classmates build their fortunes and start their families fills him with self-contempt, regret, and jealousy.
- Now 38 and unable to conceive, Carol is plagued by feelings of guilt and regret for two abortions she had in her teens.
- A model in her thirties, Helen feels insecure around other women and is sure that any man she loves will leave her for someone prettier and smarter. She needs to see the connection to her childhood, when she was taunted, and sometimes tortured, by her older sister, who never let Helen play with her and her friends.
- An underachieving supermarket manager, Mark is a loner who complains of being bored with his life. Ever since he was twelve and saw his father die suddenly, he has been a self-declared hypochondriac and can't let anyone or anything become important to him.
- Deeply in love for the first time in her life, Janice is troubled because sex with her fiancé has become boring. Her basis of comparison is the wild, forbidden sex she had with "bad boys" when she was younger and with her boyfriend when they first met and he was still married. She needs to find acceptable ways to bring the excitement of her sexual past into the peaceful, long-term intimacy she also desires.
- At age 50, Peter is torn by competing desires: to stay with his wife of 20 years or start a new life with another woman with whom he is having an affair. He is repeating the same pattern he witnessed when his dad ran off with a young woman at the age of 50. At the time, Peter hated his father for leaving his mother, but also admired that he had "the guts to go for it" despite intense social disapproval.
As the great novelist William Faulkner once said, the past is not dead, it is not even past. Indeed, the past lives on in everything we think, feel, say, and do. The cells in our bodies may die and replace themselves every seven years; we may change jobs, spouses, addresses, even our names; but the imprint of every experience-large and small, pleasant and unpleas ant- remains with us, each one adding to the sum of who we are, like the bricks and mortar in a house or the words on a page.
The past does not just sit there like an obedient child, waiting to be called upon when we want to remember things. It is a full participant in our lives. A painful past can haunt us, stirring up rage, regret, sorrow, shame, and other bitter feelings. The emotional residue of that paina background buzz of self-punishment, fear, and angercan quite literally control us, turning us into victims of memory and drowning the more delicate emotions of love, joy, and compassion. Positive memories haunt us, too, making us long for the freedom and excitement of days gone by. But it's not just the past we remember that influences the present. To a large extent, the unremembered past shapes the feeling tone of our lives, sometimes calling forth confidence, generosity, and exuberance, and at other times unexplained anxiety, despair, and physical illness.
What echoes of the past are disturbing your peace in the present? To assess the extent to which you can benefit from this book, please answer yes or no to the following questions:
Making Peace with Your Past
- Do you harbor guilt, gripes, or grudges from a past relationship?
- Are you plagued by thoughts like "If only I had . . . " or "I wish I didn't . . .?"
The Six Essential Steps to Enjoying a Great Future
. Copyright © by Harold Bloomfield. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.