The shift of blame from past to present

No matter what happened to us in the past, right now we can take responsibility for working compassionately with our habits, our thoughts and emotions. We can take the emphasis off who hurt us and put it on disentangling ourselves.
Pema Chodron, Taking the Leap: Freeing Ourselves from Old Habits and Fears

People can be mean. Children can be especially mean, and a lot of what happened during our childhood — whether we like it, or are conscious of it, or not — shapes a good portion of how we feel about ourselves and interact with others.

For me, it’s been difficult to…

  • not take things too personally.
  • know when people are joking.
  • trust that my loved ones aren’t out to hurt me.

I’ve gotten into many heated arguments because I’d assumed and accused other people of trying to hurt me in some way. And to find a way out of what I’d caused, I’d use my past as an excuse for the way I’ve acted and the things I’ve said. It’s easy to blame the past and use it as an excuse because the past is an extremely personal territory and often a difficult place for the other person to step in to. The arguments have ended with me saying that it’s “because of the past and I’m working on it,” and the classic “it won’t happen again.”

And, it does. And I blame the past again. The same argument keeps coming up like an endless loop, because I keep bringing the past into the present, and relive how I felt back then. Nothing progresses. It’s like starting a marathon, and then all of a sudden being brought back to the start line after traveling for miles. We relive the start line.

I think blaming the past is a valid excuse, but up to a certain point. The bad memories inhibit our growth. Reliving and giving strength to it stalls us from moving forward. We have to come face-to-face with our past, and see ourselves for who we are and can be.

Once we’re able to shift the responsibility onto our present self, we hold ourselves accountable for our mistakes and shortcomings. If we shift our blame from the past to the present, there’s no more easy way out, and we can work on getting out of the hole we were in.

if we had nothing but smooth sailing, if our habitual patterns just dropped away, continually, week after week with no problem, we would have no empathy for all those people who continue to get hooked and act out… the ideal spiritual journey needs the balance of “gloriousness” and “wretchedness.” If it were all glory, just one success after another, we’d get extremely arrogant and completely out of touch with human suffering.
Pema Chodron, Taking the Leap: Freeing Ourselves from Old Habits and Fears

Nobody’s perfect, and detaching ourselves from what “was” is a continuous effort. But, I’d like to believe that as we do our best at undoing our habits of reliving the moment, we prepare ourselves for the time we’re able to coexist with our bitter past, where the memories just become memories, where everything just is.