Childhood has a lot to answer for. We arrive in this world as a clean sheet of paper and our early years can shape our whole life as the paper slowly fills up. It’s not in our power to control what goes onto that paper because we have nothing to measure it against. It’s easy to say, don’t let your past define your future, but it often happens without us knowing about it.
Some people believe your past doesn’t define you, it prepares you. That may be true to a certain degree, if your upbringing is determined that way. Much of what we learn in our early years is good and helpful for our future years. Some of it can be harmful though, especially as we are so impressionable while our mind develops.
It’s believed we are born with just two fears which naturally help to protect us: that of falling and loud sounds. A Cornell University study in 1960, tested a group of 6 to 14 months old children and some animals. It was to test if they would step over a virtual visual cliff which was set up on the floor. None of the children or animals went over the “cliff edge”. This seems to show an instinct for survival. Loud noises tend to startle or make infants “jump”, which creates a fight or flight response.
Is Personality Learned?
We know that each child has similar and different traits, they are noticeable very early. How often have you heard someone talking about a baby saying something like, oh that temper is just like his father’s or mother’s? Are such traits learned or inherited? There’s probably a mixture of both, although much of it is usually learned. For example, even though fear is an instinct for protection, being frightened of spiders and snakes is something that gets learned.
Our personality develops as we grow and is influenced by adults. What we see, we believe. Why wouldn’t we? Early life experiences influence us, and we carry them through our lives. In the article, The Fear of Fear, I told the story of when I was very young, being frightened while in an elevator. I still feel apprehensive today when I get into one. As a child, I had a recurring dream about a snake appearing from under the ground wherever I walked It used to scare me. Today, I still have an extreme fear of snakes. I know both fears are not logical and are irrelevant to now, but they’re still there.
Children with a violent parent often turn out violent too and sadly, it’s usually the same with abused children, although not always. We’re influenced most by outside influences in our first three to seven years. What we see, hear and learn gets recorded in our subconscious mind and it stays there. Because our mind can only process one thought at a time, much of what goes on around us, we don’t see. Even so, it still goes into the subconscious.
Tapping into Your Past
Instead of saying, don’t let your past define your future, it should be, don’t let your past dictate who you are, let it be part of who you become. You cannot alter the past, but you can change how it affects you today. It can never be completely erased. If you can, acknowledge it’s there and then work on not letting it affect you in the future. It will do to some degree, but you can limit it once you know where it came from.
Everyone of us has memories that were not pleasant. We still get the same feelings today when we go through a similar experience. The feelings are real, but they’re being replayed from old recordings in our subconscious which might not be relevant to now. Despite this, they still hold us back. We tend to have patterns in our life, perhaps you attract bad people into your life or maybe you always end up broke. These things are learned, if you want to change them, you can!
If you’re always broke, perhaps you learned that when you have money, you must spend it all. No matter how much food is on my dinner plate, I feel I must eat all of it. I believe this comes from when I was very young in school, being made to eat all my dinner, even though I might have disliked it. I was told, I should be grateful for it because there are thousands of starving children in the world. What an awful thing to say to a child. Even though I know it isn’t relevant to me now, I hate leaving food on my plate.
How You Don’t Let Your Past Define Your Future
Identifying what it is from the past that affects you now, is a huge step towards dealing with it. If you can’t work out what it is, then don’t worry. Match up the current situation with how you feel and really question whether that feeling is genuinely appropriate to that situation. You might get a different view if you do this.
Let go of the past, forgive those who may have got it wrong when you were young. Unless they were purposefully wanting to hurt you, everyone makes mistakes, and no one teaches you how to bring up kids. If you hang on to the hurt, anger or pain, it’s you you’re hurting, not the person who did it. Not letting it go or forgiving will affect your future, not theirs, so realize it’s in your power to control it. Your past doesn’t define your future unless you allow it to.
Face your fear or hurt head on, you’ll be amazed how easy it gets after you’ve done it once. Using positive affirmations and visualizations will help. Use them to tell your subconscious that you’ve already overcome the problem and feel the feeling you get from having achieved that. Your spirits get lifted, and with repetition, you can turn it into reality. You might also want to consider that bad things from the past or mistakes you’ve made, can actually help you to define a better future. Use what’s gone before as a lesson, so you are in control of now. Don’t let your past define your future, but remember it can also be used to enhance it.