Integrating Our Past as We Begin this New Year
by Dr. Dale V. Atkins, January 2015
I swear, the older I get, the faster the years seem to fly by. What can we learn from last year as we move into this year?
Some of us feel comfortable, never looking back. Others of us "live in the past." And still others use the past "to inform" the present.
I don't see how we can learn from the past if we don't have a look at it. With distance can come another perspective. New insights and lessons that may not have been obvious when we were in the "thick" of the experience, suddenly become available to us.
We have opportunities to think about the choices we had and decisions we made. And we can go further as we interpret them in an effort to come to terms.
What is the meaning we ascribe to what we have experienced? What is the meaning we ascribe to our lives? How has that changed from year to year (if it has)?
Recently, someone who has been divorced for 25 years said to me: "I will forever be bitter." I was taken aback by what seemed like a steadfast commitment to this belief. I wondered to myself whether this statement had become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
It is totally understandable that someone would feel bitterness after experiencing disappointment, dashed dreams, deceit, and whatever else was part of a self-described failed marriage. The "expected" life did not happen.
We are each responsible for whether and how we come to terms with our lives. We can think about where, what, and who we are now in relation to where, what and who we used to be. We can decide if and how we integrate the our life experiences -- the painful and the joyful -- and then, how we live the rest of our life.