“Dealing with the past is not the same as wallowing in it.”
In the world of 12-step recovery, there is a step in which practitioners think about their lives going well into the early years and as recent as yesterday. They are encouraged to come face to face with the negative experiences that still linger in their memory especially those that cause a twinge or a full-blown gush of resentment. They are told to consider what exactly happened and why it was so upsetting to them. They are also told to consider anything they might have done in a situation that may have contributed to the cause or exacerbated the situation. In a later step they are led through a process of forgiveness and reconciliation.
The experience can be grueling, but amazingly, for those who follow through, it usually leads to amazing freedom. The statement above that I shared was spoken by a person who has been through this process. It is hard for people to understand the difference between dealing with a past problem and wallowing in it. When one is wallowing, it usually means that the problem frequently visits one’s thoughts and brings along with it the same feelings of resentment. When wallowing, one will be caught once again into defensive thought. I recognize it when a person who is wallowing because they will make statements that are intended to proclaim their own innocence and judgment against the offending party. At that moment, they are trying to affect my opinion of them as though I were a one-person jury.
When a person has truly dealt with the past, they may remember past events, but the hooks have dissolved. I myself have found a new relationship with my past hurts. They rarely come to mind, first of all. It usually will happen when I hear a story of someone else’s experience that matches my own. I take this as a clue from my Higher Power that either I should share it with this person or that in remembering it, there may be something more I need to learn. I like to think of my past experiences as tools for service.