The future is a place where everything is better, and the past is filled with suffering. In the present we tend to remember the hard times more than the good. If we want to arrive at the bright future before us, we have to let go of the past and ride the wave of the present into the days that hold our heart’s desire.
When we think of the future; say, 5 or 10 years from now; we always like to think that wherever we are and whatever we’re doing, things will be better. We’ll have more money; we’ll have a better job; we’ll own a house; we’ll take a trip around the world; we’ll finally meet “the one”. No one ever likes to think they’ll be worse off in the future. No one wants to think they’ll be broke or alone or desperate. Of course, it’s possible that we really might be worse off in the future; we might make a bad decision or life might throw us something unexpected that changes everything; but no one wants to think that way. Instead we make our future plans and envision a place where everything is better, and we have the things we desire and work so hard for.
When we think of the past, we tend to remember the bad times more than the good. There is scientific research to prove this. The NY Times published an article about this phenomenon of the human psyche in 2012. In it, the paper quotes Stanford University communications professor Clifford Nass who has researched the subject.
“Negative emotions generally involve more thinking, and the information is processed more thoroughly than positive ones,” he said. “Thus, we tend to ruminate more about unpleasant events — and use stronger words to describe them — than happy ones.”
There is an evolutionary explanation for why the human mind functions this way. People who remember bad events more clearly are more likely to avoid them happening again in the future, and this can give a survival advantage over those who don’t.
That’s why the past can seem like it’s full of suffering to us, even though there might have been more good times than bad. Hindsight is not always 20/20. The memories formed around traumatic events and failures tend to be the things we remember more easily, giving us a warped view of our past.
Sometimes, it can be hard to forget about the suffering of the past and this holds us back. Being hung up on our failings and holding onto the traumas of the past make it impossible to move forward into the bright futures that we envision. If we ever want to live free and attain the success and happiness that we see in the years ahead, we can’t let our propensity for remembering the bad weigh us down like a millstone. The past is always in the past and ruminating on it, although hard to stop ourselves from doing, doesn’t help. Letting go of the past, and learning from our failures, is the best we can do and the only way to move forward.