Past-Dead/Buried and Forgotten?
“Yes, Past is dead! Buried! It will never return! But is it to be forgotten? I don’t think so! How can we forget our past? This very present of ours has been built over our past. Then why do you suggest that we forget the past?”
Ritika sat across the coffee table across Dr. Ellena, among the most well-regarded and well-known psychologists and counsellors in the country, with a barrage of questions.
Ritika had had a terrible breakdown because of losing out in her love life, and that too, for the third time. She was a very sensitive girl, and was much more vulnerable to heart-breaks, than most others.
Seeing her condition, her parents suggested that she seek professional help; and, fortunately, she agreed. After hearing Ritika speak for an hour, Dr. Ellena’s advice was,
“Past is dead! Buried! Just forget it and move ahead in life!”
She picked up her cup of coffee and stirred a teaspoonful of sugar in it.
Further explaining herself, Dr. Ellena continued, “When I say forget the past, I actually mean forget your painful past! It is true that our present is based on our very past, and yes, it is also of great help to us, but only when we learn from it. Our past can be a great teacher for us, provided we want to use it, to build a beautiful present. Our past, as our teacher, helps us in moving ahead in life.”
Dr. Ellena sat there sipping her coffee, for a few minutes, as if giving Ritika time to assimilate what she had talked about so far. Looking into her eyes, Dr. Ellena carried on,
“We must forget the past; the past that becomes our baggage; the past that has a fearful characteristic of growing by the day, weighing us down, till we are crushed out of shape. The faster we get rid of this baggage, the better it is for us. In our vulnerability we fall into the clutches of this dreadful past, which feeds us with fear and pain, and makes us feel as if we are unfortunate and helpless victims. We then get into this habit of living a wretched life of a victim, even going to the extent of justifying this as our destiny, all this while clinging on to the baggage, till our last breath.”
Ritika sat there, listening. Dr. Ellena’s words were falling into her ears and were fitting into the maze of her mind.
“Ritika, you must visit your past to find out the reason why things happened the way they did; and then, keeping these in mind, you must try to give a different shape to your present. I suggest you ask yourself this one question: ‘Do I want a happy present?’ This is a very pertinent question! If the answer is in the affirmative, cut off the baggage and move on! No revisiting the baggage again! Your learnings from your past will then become your skateboard, which will take you ahead.”
“Is it that easy to cut off the baggage?” Ritika’s voice quivered.
This question always made Dr. Ellena’s heart miss a beat! She had been hearing this one question from the countless number of people who came to her for help; and this query, a mix of despair and helplessness and hope, still managed to wet her eyes.
She stretched out her hand and held Ritika’s. They felt cold!
“No, it is never easy! It tears your heart apart, churns your insides, and your head may feel like exploding; yet, this is the best approach that works. Past is a reservoir of memories: happy, sad and many such other emotions. Like a good gardener, we need to de-weed our garden of past; throwing away the memories that bring us pain, and nurturing the ones that bring us joy. This is called mindful living. We need to do it every single moment of our life, to make a beautiful garden out of it.”
“But what was my fault that I should be suffering like this?” Ritika cried out.
“It takes two people to make a relationship work. Right, Ritika? Lack of understanding between two persons leads to mistrust and unhappiness, and ends up with the two of them falling apart. We must never imagine our life in hindsight! It will always give a wrong picture. But if we can look at our past without any bias, it brings up many lessons for us to learn. What we make out of them, is what gives us direction.”
Ritika was now pacing the room. Even in her terrible state of mind, she admired Dr. Ellena for her approach of focusing on a factual way to try and find out a solution, rather than lending her a shoulder to cry upon. She was already feeling soft stirrings of strength in her; the cry for help was already transforming itself into a will to cut off her pain, and to move on. Dr. Ellena could also sense this transformation, and was letting Ritika handle the raging strife that was shooting from her heart and was slowly engulfing her mind!
Ritika suddenly stopped in front of an exquisite wall-hanging in the room. She was reading the beautiful prayer written on it.
“God, give me the serenity to accept things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference!”
- Reinhold Niebuhr
She read it again and again and again!
She then slowly turned back to Dr. Ellena and smiled. The smile was like a beautiful rainbow in the sky!