I've always loved the night sky. There is something about gazing up at uncountable stars that makes me feel at once insignificantly small and totally expansive. I looked it up and there is a philia for those who love stars and stargazing - astrophile. I'll admit it was not as poetic as I'd hoped.
As humans, the stars have fascinated us for centuries, since the beginning of our existence, I imagine. They mark our significant moments. We use them to know ourselves and tell our futures. We wish on them. We fill them with hopes and dreams and meaning. They seem to make us feel less alone in the world. And we often forget that they are illusions, too.
When we look at the stars, we are not seeing those stars as they are now. In fact, many of them may have already burnt out..collapsed into black holes in the universe. We are seeing them as they were, millions of years in the past. When we look at the stars, we are literally looking back in time.
I was thinking of this incredible fact yesterday while sitting with a client. So often I hear clients say that they just want to move on, leave the past in the past. "I don't know why this is still bothering me," they say. "Why can't I just get over this?" they say. And I always say some version of the same thing..."you're not over it because it's not done yet. There's some part of this experience that is still living with you in the present." As long as there is still some part of us that feels hurt or stuck or unfinished about a past experience, we carry it with us. And we try our best to protect that piece of us that's hurt. And we try our best to heal it. And, if the hurt is very great, our best is often not effective enough.
I like to think of our past hurt as fuel on the fire. Something happens in the present, we have some experience, we feel upset, and that experience is real. But the reaction we feel inside is SO much larger than the present experience seems to warrant. That's the presence of past hurt. Our past hurt take a little spark of present pain and ignites an inferno.
And what can we possibly do when we're on fire like that? Usually nothing until the fire dies down. But the very first step is to become aware of the disconnect. Recognize that the internal experience and the inciting incident don't seem to match up. When you notice that, you can begin to separate the spark from the blaze and tend to each separately. Because they cannot be tended to together. The apology or the resolution of the sparking incident will do nothing to calm the internal experience that is fueled by past hurt. If you can separate the two, you can have resolution for the sparking incident in the present and also turn your attention to the deeper pain (and therapy can help you here).
Because really, each and every one of us is a collection of our experiences. We're all carrying around hurt, loss, grief and disappointment from our past. So, in some ways, we are very rarely truly only in the present moment. By becoming aware of and acknowledging the presence of our past, we can create more space for it and be kinder to ourselves when it shows up.
As you move through life, begin to see both the experience that is happening for you now, and the emotion that may be fueled by an experience somewhere in the past. You do not have to know the details of that past, only that two things are true in that moment...what is and what was. Just as when we look at the sky, we see the stars as they are to us now, and the light of how they were so many years before us.