Do you wish you had the power to instantly change the past based on what you now know? Do you regret many of the mistakes you’ve made that created a negative chain of causality?
While you may not be able to go “back to the future” and fix things like Marty McFly, one thing you can do to let go of the past and create a life you love is to recognize your dysfunctional behavior.
Here are three steps to remove any problems holding you back :
- Notice recurring patterns — Often dysfunctional patterns – miserable jobs, unhappy relationships, and frequent illnesses – recur until you recognize them. When you are in the midst of a troubling situation, you’re too upset and preoccupied with how to solve it to notice a theme. However, through the wisdom of hindsight, you can see how the same things keep recurring. The only difference is the people or the settings.
In a string of bad relationships, for example, the common theme in all of them is that you were there. In all these relationships, you did or failed to do things that caused them to fall apart. Perhaps, your problems even started before the relationship: you made the same poor choices. Perhaps, they emerged during the course of the relationship: you lacked the patience to let the other person do things their own way. Perhaps, you caused the relationship to collapse in a dramatic way: you said hurtful things that angered the other person because they didn’t make the other person feel loved or respected. Whatever it was, there was a cause that you set in motion to create the recurring pattern.
- Find the cause – Sometimes there may be more than one cause that creates dysfunctional behavior. There is the original, precipitating cause that is followed by another cause that sustains your unhappiness. Here’s a hypothetical example to explain how this chain of causality works:
Sally is in an abusive relationship because her husband is a philanderer and thinks she is too stupid to notice. Because she is afraid to confront him since she does not have an independent income, she turns to alcohol or abuses a prescription drug like valium for solace. However, one day he files for a divorce because he wants to marry his girlfriend. Although her problem has now been solved – the husband who caused her so much emotional anguish has left — she might continue with her substance abuse because it has become such an effective form of self-medication when she feels miserable.
- Remove the cause — Once Sally recognizes that her husband was the first chain of causality and her substance abuse the second one, she can do something about changing her life for the better. Because her husband has left, she doesn’t have to resolve that cause. She now only has one cause to deal with and a solution might be to enroll in substance abuse rehab for women.
Take Your Power Back
While an argument can be made that the world is a troubled place, more often than not, you are the main source of your troubles.
This may seem to be a harsh thing to say if your problems arose because other people betrayed you, let you down, or didn’t help you, but while you may not have caused the car accident or ruined the family finances, you are 100% responsible for your reaction to these life-changing catastrophes.
To change your life for the better, begin by loving and accepting yourself just as you are right now. Forget about regretting who you could have become if you had done the right things. Next, acknowledge your personal responsibility in how things worked out, even if it is something as subtle as how you responded to a distressing situation.
While other people can certainly help you, you also have to realize that you are responsible for your life. The sooner you realize that someone may not come to your rescue whenever you need help, the sooner you will find the power to step out of victimhood into self-empowerment.
By recognizing your own role in how things failed to work out and identifying the things that are holding you back, you can change your life for the better.
A Bridge over Troubled Waters
As human beings, it’s not possible to evade all problems. Even the Buddha had his detractors even after he had attained enlightenment. However, the solution he used is something we can all use—love. He loved and accepted himself and he chose not to take offense when others hurled abuse at him.
So while we can’t evade all troubles, we can move into finding a healthy life balance by loving ourselves despite what is happening to us or around us. Although subtle, love is a vibrant force of harmony. It fixes broken things, heals wounds, and builds bridges over troubled waters.
Even if you can’t go back and fix the past, you can love yourself right now and forgive yourself for any mistakes that you made in the past.
You can also use love to heal your present struggles because love quickens your perceptions, opens your mind to possibility thinking, removes obstacles, attracts allies, brings in unexpected resources, and sometimes even makes impossible things possible.