We all have unfinished business. Whether it’s that one embarrassing moment we wish we could change, that last sentence we could have said to someone, or an opportunity we regret passing up. But we’ve been told to leave the past in the past, right? There might be an immense benefit to exploring one’s past; but it is important to pay careful attention to how one revisits their past.
Who Cares about the Past?
It is important to know that everyone has important unfinished business in their lives. It is part of the human condition to have regret for the past. But is our regret for the past worth holding onto? I believe that most people who ruminate on past actions or events could use some help exploring these facets of their lives. I hope to offer you a new perspective on dealing with your own unfinished business.
Family of Origin
Let’s start with our families. In therapeutic terms, we usually refer to our immediate families as the family of origin. Everyone reading this can remember their family of origin, even if biological parents were not present. Who were your primary caregivers? Who were you raised by? And most importantly, how were you affected by being raised by these people? The family of origin is a common starting point for many therapists. There is a critical reason for this: our first relationships (with parents or caregivers) dictate a first draft of our interpersonal relationship models with other people, both friendly and romantic. The unfortunate side to this fact is that we are not in control of how the first draft of our relationship map is formed. The positive side is that we have control in the here and now to explore our earliest relationships and observe how they affect our relationships in the present. To give a few example questions that may be relevant to readers: “Why do I push people away when they want to get close to me?”, “How come I get angry when people disagree with me?”, and “Why do I get so afraid when someone threatens to end our relationship?”
Fearing the Past
I believe there is a great value in exploring these questions in the context of our families of origin. I admit that exploring these areas can create anxiety, fear, and downright terror. However, the process of exploring these parts of our past can lead to a much more productive, insightful, and gratifying way of life than we have ever imagined. A therapeutic maxim tells us that going through pain leads us to a greater way of living. Ancient wisdom has also reminded us that we must “Know thyself.”
What Can You Get from This?
My charge to you is to have the courage to navigate your own past. Devote some time to exploring the similarities between your relationships with your family of origin and compare it to your present relationships. What similarities do you see? Are there some aspects of your current relationships that you would like to change? I would urge you to excavate the complexities of your earliest relationships and allow yourself to gain invaluable insights to your own ways of relating to other people. By understanding our default relationship maps, we gain some conscious awareness of our behaviors that allow us to mold our own futures.