No point in dwelling in the past… or is there?

Sometimes people say that there’s no point in dwelling in the past. That it’s better to move on and leave the past behind.

There’s some truth in that, but I’d say it’s not the whole story. It’s true that constantly worrying about the past doesn’t help, if you’re only dwelling on it without true connection to your emotions and experience.

On the other hand, not all things can just be left behind without facing and processing them.

Everything leaves a mark

Everything that you experience affects you in one way or another. Your self-image, worldview and behaviour are all informed by your experiences. Sometimes what’s happened in the past negatively affects your life right now, maybe causing anxiety or depression. If the anxiety and difficult emotions still remain in your mind-body, just leaving them behind simply doesn’t work – you need to face them.

It’s important to approach them in a safe and controlled manner, and not only on the thought level. Trying to think your way out of anxiety easily turns into the sort of dwelling that can actually make you feel worse.

Both your emotions and your body need to be involved

The key to a healing dive into the past is in getting in touch with your emotions. How it’s done can look different for each person, and the methods of music therapy include many alternative ways to get in touch with your repressed emotions and to face them with compassion.

It’s also important to notice what happens in your body when you’re doing emotional work. For example, anxiety often makes itself known as increased heartbeat and difficulty with breathing. When you allow the body to feel what it’s feeling, while knowing you’re in a safe space, your capacity to experience difficult emotions grows and the pain associated with them lessens. 

Do note though, that you shouldn’t dive deep into any symptoms and emotions that are a result of trauma all at once. It needs to be done step by step.

Recognize your own reactions

If you have difficult experiences in your past that you want to leave behind, consider how you tend to approach them. Do you push forward by willpower alone, bypassing the experience, or maybe get stuck in the loop of how badly you’ve been treated?

If either one of these sounds familiar, it’s worth pausing and starting to give space to your deeper emotional experience, and try to allow it with compassion. All your experiences and emotions are true. What you can do is choose how to approach them.