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Section 3
Accepting the Past

Question 3 | Test | Table of Contents

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In the last section, we discussed the importance of forgiveness and "letting go" in order to achieve happiness.

In this section, we will examine how living in the present is vital to deflating your holiday let down.

Your judgment, agitation, and mental chatter so common to your experience comes from excessive interest in the past and future, but perhaps not in the present. Do you agree?

Another word for quiet is "now." Can you guess what one thing keeps you from feeling calm and effective in the present? It begins with an "A" and the word is anxiety. Think for a moment. Do you feel you're not living in past pain and fearing the future? Are you truly in the present moment in your car or at home listening to this CD, what will you actually find there? If you have spent a lifetime, not just this past Christmas season avoiding looking at something, you may be tempted to conclude that there must be a good reason for not being present in the moment.

Ask yourself, mentally, are you in the habit of oscillating between a state of anxious anticipation and small discouragements; sort of like waves that break against a beach accomplishing little and then turning back on themselves. Think about a situation that happened over this past holiday season. Let's go back to the gift you gave your sixteen year old daughter discussed in a previous section. What is your gift that you gave or action you took that was not received in the ideal way you had it painted in your mind.

Does the word martyrdom perhaps come to mind? Or else did you pursue something that when you actually got it, like the perfectly color coordinated bow for the package, the perfectly constructed toy for your child, or the perfect chocolate chip cookie for Christmas morning, did you feel that something was really missing and that even though, to you, it turned out perfectly and the bow, the toy or the cookie were without any real significance and enduring satisfaction?

Do you sort of feel like through this entire holiday season you were rushing after something like the waves only to turn away and rush after something else? Only the form of what you are chasing after varies but the basic pattern remains undisturbed. It's almost as if we are acting like anything, anything at all is preferable to remaining mentally in the present. Be in the past, be in the future, but don't be in the now.

Our life makes contact with us at the point known as the now. So what does that sentence mean? Our life makes contact with us at the point known as the now.

To the degree that your thoughts are lost in past regret and in future scheming, is the degree that you are missing out on what is happening to you this minute as you listen to this CD. Look outside your car window or around the room in which you sit. Feel present to what you see, hear, smell and can touch with your hand. That is the present.

So what's the big deal you might say? The big deal is it is only in the present in which you can only feel happiness. For today for this moment what would happen if you decided to release your past pain from the last couple months? Not all, just as much as you can. And not forever, just for a few seconds.

♦ Technique: Release the Situation
Think of a past unhappiness; now envision it perhaps floating away or however you would release it. Maybe open and close your hand, maybe say release, release. Some people are visual others are tactile, others are auditory.

If not, try it again, think of the situation, the person, the circumstances; then, release just a little, not all and just for a few seconds, either visually, tactilely or auditorily.

If you are a visual person, perhaps view the whole scene floating up into the air like smoke and drifting off into the sky;
If you are a tactile person, squeeze one of your hands closed and envision the situation in one of those hands, then open your hand;
If you are an auditory person, say to yourself or out loud, "I release this situation."

So with that said, do you feel ever so subtly a shift inside regarding that person or event that happened over the last couple of months?

When will you enjoy your child? When will you be truly present to hear a friend or significant other? When will you roll down your car window, ever so slightly if it's cold outside, to feel a breeze passing over your cheek? Will there finally come a meal in which you will taste, really taste your food? Just where are you going anyway? All you will ever discover about the future is that it remains the future just as the past will always stay behind you not with you. With these thoughts in mind, do you ever feel like you're missing some things of real value by continually mulling over past pains and fussing over future plans?

♦ Living in the Present
Where is happiness found? You probably guessed it. Happiness is found in the present. Happiness is a feeling, right? You can only feel in the present right now this second what you feel. Obviously what I'm talking about may take a certain amount of uncomfortable effort on your part to walk past your ordinary way of doing things. Yet once you decide to focus on the present, not all the time of course, but every now and then, your thoughts, ideas and awareness become clear. The martyrdom, testiness, and suffering from the holidays only have the power that you give them. All you have to do is decide to begin.

Or perhaps you're one of the quite fortunate people who perhaps have experienced a narrow escape from death in which you suddenly see the importance of opening your mind and emotions to the present and for a time you were transformed. Or maybe a minor occurrence, a near miss. A child darts in front of your car, you swerve and they are missed and you think, "If I had left my house two seconds earlier I would have hit that child." Thus, you count your blessings. How many seconds did that last?

Could you ever say the following sentence to yourself and honestly mean it? And I'll repeat it twice. People do not have to behave themselves for me to love them and be happy. People do not have to behave themselves for me to love them and be happy.

♦ 3-Step "Letting Go of the Past" Technique
Now, to help live in the present, let's try this exercise I call "Letting Go of the Past". I believe this exercise will aid you in realizing how much you define yourself by your past and will help you in releasing it to make your life more full and happy in the present.

1. Make a list of three situations in which you felt some emotion you're terming as negative, for example, you felt embarrassed, ashamed, angry, hurt, annoyed, etc. over this past holiday season. Number these experiences. Experience number one, experience number two, and experience number three.
2. Now, make a separate list on a different sheet of paper. Place the number 1 at the top, 2 in the middle, and 3 towards the bottom of the left-hand margin. corresponding to the numbers on your first list, write down what you learned from your experience or some positive aspect of that situation that you could not see at the time and possibly could have a positive effect on who you are today.
3. Now take the first list of three negative experiences and destroy. Don't just throw it away. Tear it up, burn it, make a paper snowflake out of it. Whatever you feel is the best way for you to let go of those three negative holiday ghosts of the past.

All you have left now is your second list, right? The list of positive aspects that make you, you. Concentrate on that list, because this is a catalog of who you are in the present, right now. Be that person that uses the knowledge from your encounters for to act as building blocks to formulate positive mental filters, replacing the old negative ones. Do you see how selectively changing your perception changes your feelings about that past wound and not the person or the circumstances that create your reality.

In this section, we discussed how living in the present is vital to an enduring happiness. You were provided with the letting go of the past exercise

In the next section, we will examine the importance of gaining a personal awareness of a crisis situation through "stopping" and "starting" or something I will call "pausing between the pearls."

Characteristics, Correlates, and Outcomes of Childhood and
Adolescent Depressive Disorders

- Rao, U. and Chen, L. (2009). Characteristics, Correlates, and Outcomes of Childhood and
Adolescent Depressive Disorders.

Peer-Reviewed Journal Article References:
Bardeen, J. R., & Fergus, T. A. (2020). Emotion regulation self-efficacy mediates the relation between happiness emotion goals and depressive symptoms: A cross-lagged panel design. Emotion, 20(5), 910–915. 

Brady, E. U., & Kendall, P. C. (1992). Comorbidity of anxiety and depression in children and adolescents. Psychological Bulletin, 111(2), 244–255.

Cetinkol, G., Bastug, G., & Ozel Kizil, E. T. (2020). Poor acceptance of the past is related to depressive symptoms in older adults. GeroPsych: The Journal of Gerontopsychology and Geriatric Psychiatry. Advance online publication. 

Felsman, P., Verduyn, P., Ayduk, O., & Kross, E. (2017). Being present: Focusing on the present predicts improvements in life satisfaction but not happiness. Emotion, 17(7), 1047–1051. 

Kang, Y., & Gruber, J. (2013). Harnessing happiness? Uncontrollable positive emotion in bipolar disorder, major depression, and healthy adults. Emotion, 13(2), 290–301. 

Yang, F., Knobe, J., & Dunham, Y. (2020). Happiness is from the soul: The nature and origins of our happiness concept. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General. Advance online publication. 

Where is happiness found? To select and enter your answer go to Test.

Section 4
Table of Contents