Tip #66: How To Retrain Your Brain To Stop Being Afraid Of The Past

Tip #66: Whenever you have an anxious thought about a place or thing you used to love, think about one positive memory about that place or thing.

Don’t let the past keep you from moving forward.


The why: Oh, the past.

People assume that anxiety is being afraid of the future, imagining all the awful and horrible scenarios that could happen if things go wrong.

Yup. Don’t get me wrong, that is a large part of it,

Don’t get me wrong, that is a large part of it, but anxiety is a triple-edged sword that even the Knights of the Round Table would be afraid of. Not only do you get to be horrified by the future, but you also worry about the present and the past.

Lucky for us, anxiety has all bases covered (this is sarcasm).

The past can be an especially sore spot because we can’t change it.

All the mistakes we made, silly comments we said then we spend nights upon nights overanalysing, all the friends we may have lost touch with.

The past can be a sad place, a source of regret, a source of anxiety.

We use the past in order to punish ourselves in the now, and if we’re not careful, the past can consume us.

“I should’ve said this instead of that and I would’ve got the job. I’m never going to an interview again, I’ll just mess it up.”

“Maybe if I had done this more, I wouldn’t have lost touch with that person.”

“If I had only not eaten that entire bag of doughnuts, I would not feel so sick now.” (I don’t actually regret it).

The past can repeat in our brains, over and over and over. Sometimes it feels you’re going mad!

Here are three methods I have found that really help us to overcome the anxiety about the past.


Number One – Whenever You Find Yourself Thinking Over The Things You Did Wrong, Think Of Two Things You Did Right.

Whenever you begin to think about mistakes you made in friendships, or relationships, or job interviews, or that joke you told which no one laughed at, also think about two things you did right in those scenarios.

This is because when you have anxiety the past can be incredibly biased and one-sided. You blame everything on yourself. You think about everything you did wrong.

Soon, this thought process paints a narrative that you are a villain, that you can’t do anything right, that you’re a failure.

This kind of thinking can hold you back in life, ruin your self-confidence, and make your mental health even worse.

So, make sure you act like a proper good historian and tell both sides of the story.

Think about two things you did right, and change your narrative.

Crest, trench, crest, trench; the waves kept breaking and coming in their steady rhythm, sloshing alongside the boat as it dipped and ducked along the dark water. They never cease, just shrink, the captain though as the ocean rocked him to sleep. Wave after wave, not broken, remade.

Number Two – See Mistakes As A Chance To Learn

This one follows on from the first.

It’s an excellent way to make sure that you see failings in a positive light and again, change your narrative. 

Mistakes happen to the best of us. You can either use them as an opportunity to beat yourself up and give your brain a black eye, or use them as an opportunity to change and grow.

See my post on how to overcome the fear of failure here. 

Let it go.

Number Three – Who You Were Isn’t Who You Are

Sometimes in our past, there will be times where we got it monumentally wrong. We said or did something that caused hurt to someone else.

These mistakes can be the ones that haunt us the most.

But who you were isn’t who you are, and so long as you learn from these transgressions, and vow never to repeat them, you can become a better version of yourself through them.

Don’t spend your years punishing yourself for things you can’t take back. Remember all the good things you have done for others, and make sure the list of the good outweighs the bad.

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