How to Stop Living in the Past

Lu Hanessian
9 min readMay 12, 2020

The past is no place to park yourself for a lifetime. Why you look backwards. Where you get stuck. And how to pack your baggage to be and live here now.

Lu Hanessian, MSc

Smart UNSPLASH

There’s ‘been there, done that’.

And there’s… ‘been there, stayed there’. Bought real estate there.

Maybe it’s an old relationship (unforgiven). A past conversation (interrupted). A former job (quit, fired), missed opportunity (that ship sailed), betrayal (still fresh), or bitter disappointment (still bitter).

It’s an old house. You know it well. Every nook. All the dustballs and cobwebs in your mind. You rarely leave those cramped, familiar quarters. Like the doors are always locked from the inside.

As a conflict resolution practitioner, I have listened to many locked door stories. I’ve facilitated resolution between people. And within people.

Our own inner conflict emerges between reality and a story we tell about it. We get stuck. Gridlocked. As we look for any piece of information to confirm that old story, we are actively living in retrospect.

And now? In this era of timelessness and uncertainty, where the future seems like a mirage, living in the past can become our preferred default mode.

Unmet needs can show up as ruts. We get mired in the quicksand of the past.

Rumination is not a bad habit or lousy character trait. It’s a state of mind and body. A mutual messaging system. It’s a way of trying to make sense of something. The problem is that we never do make sense of it. It grips us. Drains us. Compromises our health. And relationships.

How can we recognize that we are recycling old stories? And once we see the pattern, how can we change it? What would make us want to?

Once we figure out the dynamics of “been there, stayed there”, we can learn to shift. Our state. Our awareness. Our attention. And our internal clock — from then to now.

Dynamic #1. By rehashing old scenes, we reinforce patterns of thinking and reacting. (It’s our story. And we’re sticking to it.)

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Lu Hanessian

Adjunct Professor, Journalist, Former NBC Network Anchor/Discovery Health Channel Host, Host & Exec Producer of “The Foreseeable Now” podcast.