Tiny Wisdom: Learning from Pain from the Past

“Wisdom is nothing more than healed pain.” –Robert Gary Lee

In a college acting class, my teacher had my peers surround me in a circle so that I could toss my body in various directions, while improvising a scene based on my past. She did this because I had no access to my feelings about certain events.

I could recount the most painful events in my life without a shred of actual emotion—which meant that I was often play-acting when I got into another character’s head, because in many ways, I was shut down.

When I’d thrust myself at another student, she’d push me across the circle to another one who would push me to someone else, and this would stir something in me. I’d start to feel angry, and agitated, and alive—things I didn’t feel very often back then.

I’d slowly start reliving the moments that hardened me, and actually connecting with the feelings they inspired. That circle of people felt both harsh and safe, because I was both terrified and desperate to go back—to understand what hurt me so that I could heal.

Not everyone has trauma in their past, but we’ve all been hurt before–and it can be tempting to move on without every really addressing it. It’s not always comfortable to look backwards, and many times we convince ourselves it’s smart not to do it since life happens in the now. But we can only thrive in this moment if we understand and work through the emotions we avoided to survive in the past.

We can only address what keeps us stuck if we understand why it feels safe that way—what we gain by ignoring what happened—and then recognize that we gain far more by working through it, learning from it, and then making smart choices based on what we learned.

We have an amazing ability to lie to ourselves—to say that we’ve moved on when we haven’t, and to say that we’re fine when we’re not. We may even convince ourselves these things are true.

But if we want to truly let go and feel free, we need to create that circle for ourselves—to address whatever hurt us before and why and how it did—so that we don’t just forget about the past; we shape the future with the wisdom we’ve gained from having lived it.

Photo by zeze57

About Lori Deschene

Lori Deschene is the founder of Tiny Buddha. She started the site after struggling with depression, bulimia, c-PTSD, and toxic shame so she could recycle her former pain into something useful and inspire others do the same. She recently created the Breaking Barriers to Self-Care eCourse to help people overcome internal blocks to meeting their needs—so they can feel their best, be their best, and live their best possible life. If you’re ready to start thriving instead of merely surviving, you can learn more and get instant access here.

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