Healing our past can be one of the most difficult and often overlook paths to a peaceful present. Modern culture has enabled us to either be more willing to suppress our past or to victimize ourselves with it. Rarely are we shown how to actually heal those broken parts and love ourselves to adulthood. The result is the current culture of either emotionless automatons or over reactive live wires. Both of these mindsets limit our chances of healing our past. Having been both extremes in the recent past I am well equipped to dive into this somewhat tricky topic.
The majority of our emotional composition and how we respond to situations is obviously largely developed by our parents. Most parenting styles fall into the nature vs. nurture model both of which have their downfalls when over emphasized. In my personal story, I had an odd amalgam of both styles each one being exemplified by one parent. My dad was essentially the emotionless authoritarian type who usually only a expressed simmering anger. My mother was very nurture-oriented, however, when crossed she would then ramp up to boiling over anger. Both of them were very stringent on using the word no, actively teaching me to suppress emotions by never listening to what was behind my emotions, and essentially teaching me unless I acted, felt and did what everyone else wanted I would be bad, punished, etc. To be clear, this is just how I remember it and I’m not naive enough to assume my memory is 100 percent accurate. I’d like to also note, that I love my parents and realize they both did the best they could. There is no owners manual for a child, especially one who had some of the issues I did.
When we are taught to suppress who we are, those negative emotions fester, we accrue defense mechanisms, poor coping skills and revert into ourselves. , For me, this internalization and isolation were furthered by my use of drugs at around the age of 12 or 13. By being told no all the time, by not being allowed to feel my emotions, by being punished for who I was, by infallible rule and subject to the concept of I wasn’t good enough. I learned to hide my emotions, not speak my mind, sneak around to do what I wanted, lie if I was questioned, deny who I was and people please. This type of behavior was further exacerbated by being an addict which further perpetuates these types of behaviors as well as having developed borderline personality disorder which is caused by the emotional environment in our youth.
After running the gamut of self-destructive choices and reaping the repercussions of toxic relationships, homelessness, jails, psych wards I reached a point of absolute stagnation. I reached a tipping point when I came to place where it seemed my only option was to have things go worse than they ever were before or to get better. This eventually led me to quit the use of all mind and mood altering substances, face my past and consciously change my life in the present. I set forth on a path that required a great amount of effort, diligence, honesty, introspection, dedication and above all else love. I had to honestly admit that I was at the center of all my problems and that my perception and participation was what mutated them into the putrid puddle of misery I ended up in. This was the point of liberation.
Not everyone has an addiction issue but most of us could benefit from owning our part in our problems. We can do this by making a list of resentments and seeing what part we played in the actions that created the resentments. Some of them may not have had our participation prior to them resentment but after the fact, we participate in the resentment by maintaining it. We need to forgive others, not necessarily for them but for ourselves. Nelson Mandela is quoted as saying, “As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn’t leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I’d still be in prison.” One of our greatest prison guards is ourselves. The next way we have to heal our past is, to be honest about our destructive behaviors, the ones that create problems for us. After that, we have to make a list of all the wrongs we have done. Finally, we have to make amends to the people we harmed, a simple sorry won’t cut it, we have to change those behaviors, it doesn’t matter if they wronged us, this is for us, not them. After we have taken care of everyone else and neutralized our past, we have to work towards keeping it neutral. Healing our past is not only possible, it is necessary for a happier, fuller life.
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