I enjoy speaking with people who come up to me after one
of my presentations to let me know a little about their
background and experiences. Sometimes, however,
these people will introduce themselves and in less
than a minute, they're telling me about some negative
experience that has held them back in life.
It goes something like this: "My name is
John, and my father was an alcoholic," or "My
name is Marilyn, and I grew up in this really
Before you send me a letter asking me to be more
sensitive to people with past hurts, hear me out.
I'm not saying that people with past trauma or negative
feelings should deny that those events happened or
refuse to acknowledge their feelings.
In fact, I would encourage these people to seek
counseling from mental health professionals or to visit
a doctor if they have physical ailments. Everyone
falls into the trap of discussing unpleasant
circumstances, and I'm no exception.
Yet, I think it's important in these instances to ask
ourselves: "How long will I choose to dwell
on this negative experience? Why do I inject this
topic into all of my conversations? Is this
helping to create better results in my life?"
I think we'd all agree that Oprah Winfrey is a positive
role model who has accomplished some extraordinary
things in her life. As you probably know, Oprah
was sexually molested and abused as a young girl.
She never denies this aspect of her past and readily
admits that it still affects her. Yet she
doesn't begin every one of her shows by saying,
"Hi, this is Oprah and I was abused as a
child." If she did that, she would never have
reached the place where she is now.
I'll bet that the majority of her attention is on the
things she can do today and in the future to make a
positive difference in the world. Simply put, she
doesn't dwell on the abuse she suffered years ago.
That's a choice she has made, and we can all learn from
Author and speaker Eckhart Tolle talks about the way we
live in the past and keep telling people our
"story." We tell it to everyone we come
across. And generally the story is heavily
concentrated on negative events rather than on positive,
uplifting experiences. We tend to drag our story
around like a ball and chain attached to our ankles,
pointing to it and anxious to provide all the gory
Where does that get us? Well, it might elicit some
sympathy. Along those lines, it might also get us
involved in some very time-consuming negative
conversations with other "story-tellers" who
are all too eager to try to "top" our tale of
woe with one of their own. ("If you think
that's bad, well, let me tell you about....")
And perhaps our story is something we use as an excuse
for why we're not out there living up to our fullest
potential. You see, if we have this horrible
handicap, there's no use trying to achieve anything
great. We can continue to live in our comfort zone
By the way, this isn't confined to stories involving
severe trauma. For instance, some people tell you
about how they were unfairly fired from a job six months
ago or how their allergies are acting up. They may
tell you that they are not appreciated at work.
Whether you're thinking and talking about a tragic event
or even a minor irritation, you're working against
yourself and just perpetuating negative
conditions. There is a Law of Dominant Thought,
which states that we're always moving in the direction
of our currently dominant thoughts. That's why
it's so important to keep your focus on what you want
instead of what you don't want. Said another way,
what you focus on expands.
Wayne Dyer discusses this principle in his excellent new
book, The Power of Intention. Dyer quotes
the following statement from Thomas Troward: "The
law of flotation was not discovered by contemplating the
things, but by contemplating the floating of things...
" I invite you to re-read this intriguing
statement. What Troward meant is that we don't
achieve our objectives in life by contemplating (or
discussing) the opposite of what we want to attain.
We don't attract wealth when we contemplate being
broke. We don't get healthy by contemplating how
sick we are. . . and how bad we feel. Even if you
talk about the event while mentioning a desire to change
it, you're still reinforcing the negative event.
For instance, you might keep saying to yourself and
others, "I keep eating too much ice cream day after
day and I need to stop doing that." Your mind
hears "ice cream" and will want more ice
cream! It's far better to think about having a
healthy body and to start eating more fruits and
Here's an important qualification: you're going to
find that when you do have a painful experience, whether
it's an illness, the death of a loved one or even losing
your job, the wound is raw and you'll find yourself
talking about the incident often. In fact, many
people will ask you about it. Thus, talking about
it is only natural.
Your mission is to put the event behind you as quickly
as possible. In other words, stop thinking and
talking about the past event as soon as you can.
No one can tell you what length of time is
appropriate. It depends on your unique
situation. Remember, this isn't about
denial. It's about moving your life forward in a
Today, and in the future, notice when you find yourself
thinking and talking about negative conditions or
negative experiences of your past. . . unless, of
course, you want to reinforce your pain and suffering
and create more of it in the days to come. Now's
the time to let go of the past, so you can tell a new,
happier story in the future.
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Visit Jeff at attitudeiseverything.com.