“Accept your past without regret, handle your present with confidence, and face your future without fear.” ~Unknown
My pet fish died today. Red-striped fins as beautiful as always, he was swimming around in his tank only four weeks ago. First he became less active. Next he refused to eat. Then he was gone.
As I buried him in the yard, my first thought was, I don’t want to have a pet fish ever again. Awareness kicked in, and I realized that my thought was triggered by fear to experience an unpleasant circumstance such as this again.
This is how our minds tend to work: After we go through a hurtful situation, we subconsciously avoid anything that we believe caused our pain.
This instinct of self-preservation can protect us from repeating mistakes and experiencing pain, but it can also prevent us from living life to the fullest.
One of my friends accepted a job that required her to relocate often. After the fourth move, she decided it wasn’t worth it to make new friends in her new town. It seemed to be a less hurtful option to distance herself from others.
Focused entirely on work and her immediate family, she stayed in touch with a few long-distance friends, such as me, but she admitted that she often felt something was missing in her life.
My uncle swore to never have another dog after his fourteen-year-old Shih Tzu mix had to be put to sleep. He didn’t have to deal with the loss of another pet, but was still in mourning for his dead dog years after the event.
After a traumatic experience with marriage, the mere thought of being in a new romantic relationship used to make me my physically ill. I didn’t want to get hurt again, so I would distrust everyone I met, which prevented me from welcoming new people into my life.
That’s until I realized that my sense of self-preservation had become my biggest obstacle to create new meaningful connections.
How do we let go of the fear of being hurt again and open our hearts and minds to what life has to offer?
Contemplating the following truths has helped me and it might help you, too.
A full life is made of a wide range of experiences, and some of these experiences will be unpleasant.
Job situations change. People and pets become ill and die. Relationships end.
Accepting that sometimes things won’t go your way will allow you to let go of the anxiety and stress that arise from resistance to your life circumstances. When you stop resisting, your mind is clear enough to find solutions to your problems.
Avoidance based on fear will not protect you from experiencing pain.
Why? Because living in fear is already living in pain. Instead of avoiding perceived sources of pain, seek sources of joy.
When I focused on the character traits I wanted the people in my life to have, and adopted behaviors that reflected these qualities, I started to meet amazing beings who became trusted friends.
Assuming responsibility for your unpleasant circumstances is a way to regain control of your life and to learn.
Ask yourself how your thoughts and behaviors might have contributed to what happened to you. The past won’t repeat itself if you learn from the difficulty and assume control of your thoughts about the situation.
And even if you feel that you didn’t play a role in the challenge you experienced, you can still take responsibility for your attitudes and feelings about what happened. You can choose to move on.
My friend could choose to apply for a job that doesn’t require moving so often, or she could view relocation as an exciting opportunity to make friends all over the country.
My uncle could cherish the memory of his previous pet by giving a new dog all the love and care that all creatures deserve.
When I let go of my limiting thoughts, I started to see life under a different lens, and welcomed new people who were aligned with my values and appreciated me for who I was.
The instinct of self-preservation is a powerful tool when combined with conscious awareness.
Become aware of your negative thoughts as soon as they pop up, and assume the objective perspective of an observer. This will prevent you from being ruled by fear and will allow you to tap into your intuition.
Allow yourself to learn from the past and then, let it go. Leave the hurt and the pain behind. Move forward so you can enjoy the unlimited, amazing abundance that life has to offer!
Photo by Eddi van W.