Sensitive childhood emotions don’t simply dissolve with a little insight. A wise guide may help identify origins of dysfunctional reaction, but the destructive action may continue, leaving an imprint on our souls, and inviting hurtful consequences into our lives. Noble insights only give a deeper understanding of causes. They don’t resolve the issues nor dismiss the consequences. Facing the consequences of the past is a necessary ingredient of change.
Growth Requires We Face the Consequences
We still must face the consequences of the past, whether from our choices or those of trusted others; experience impacts our lives and casts a shadow on our futures. The long challenging work of change is still necessary. Stubborn childhood issues and destructive adult choices challenge healthy resolves throughout our lives. We must battle against internal resistance to achieve lofty intentions.
Yet, with self-directed compassion and effort, we can—with time— live effectively despite impoverished childhood and destructive choices. The emotional marks etched in our brains may still unpredictably resurface, wreaking havoc; the consequences of behaviors may linger; but instead of crumbling, we can stand-up, stick out our chest and move forward, beginning a new era of power, seeding the fields of our future with purpose and hope.
Consequences and Learning
Without consequences we learn vary little from experience. Consequences create an emotional mark in out brain that we store to improve future decisions. Sometimes, we fail to learn by making faulty correlations between behavior and consequence. Unfortunately, these failures often lead to repeating the same mistake. Paul Dolan wrote that all “decisions in life, should be based on their consequences for experiences of pleasure and purpose over time, and not by narratives surrounding them” (integrity fails to give weight to the needed lesson. By making a habit of facing consequences, we indirectly motivate healthier behaviors in the present because we have a more accurate feedback loop between behavior and consequence.
Integrating the Past into a Bright Future
We must—if we are to succeed—weave the past into the tapestry of our present. The past will always be a part of who we are—including how we feel. The many threads of abuse and choices may be a different color and texture than what we would prefer; but with guidance, skill and patience, we can artfully blend what is into our desires of what we want to be.
Perfect pasts are not a requirement for healthy, joyful presents. Perhaps, to easy of a past, where too much was given, also interferes with the realities of a grown-up life. We may be unaccustomed to facing consequences of imposing environments and sketchy choices.
Growth and eventual success demands we courageously face these consequences. We must stop blaming, dodging and avoiding the consequences of the past and find effective action to repair the harm.
Mistakes Part of Learning
Childhood’s prepare the individual for a long-life of self-sufficiently. The demands for existence in human society are complex and dynamic. No childhood imparts perfect wisdom. The adult, recently freed from the nest, must test skills, make adjustments, and practice new approaches. We survive not through perfect training but effective adaptations, flexible to changing environments, and continued guidance from respectable teachers.
During this long process of maturation, we make plenty of mistakes—and with those mistakes come with consequences. Just because the behavior was not intended or the lesson already has been learned, does not excuse us from the consequence. We can’t magically dissolve the past. The error remains, the consequence must be faced.
Creating a New Set of Consequences
Childhoods, behaviors in the past, and trauma are already in the past. They fall within the realm of the things we cannot change, we can dwell on their negative impacts, but still must face the consequences they are present in the moment. Our response to things of the past is the things we can change. This precious moment of our lives—the present—molds our futures, projecting a new set of consequences that can be enjoyed. Here we make choices, here we act, here we feel pleasure and suffer pain. Often unfavorable consequences demand extra work in the present; but we can face them, repair the damage, work through the difficulties. As we face consequences, we broaden our vision, establish better relationships, and achieve those wonderful dreams of something better.
Dolan, Paul (2014). Happiness by Design: Change What You Do, Not How You Think. Avery.