Podcast Episode 22 – Pain of the Past

Jul 1, 2023 | Podcast

I’m Diana SwiIlinger, and this is the Renew Your Mind podcast. Episode 22 Pain of the Past. 

DIANA: Hey, hey, what’s happening, everybody? I’m back. I’m back for another episode, which I think is totally fun. You know, I know I could stop doing this podcast whenever I want to. And I see some other people start podcasts, and then I’m like, what happened? They stopped. But I just decided I, uh, am not going to stop. I could, but I’m not going to. Too many people are benefiting from this. And I do wonder half the time. I’m like, is anybody getting any value out of this? Is what I’m saying helpful at all? And usually when I start doubting it most, that’s when I get an email or I get a message from one. Of you listeners and you’re letting me know just how important this podcast is to you. So I’m here. I’m back, and I’m not going to stop. 


We’ll talk today about the past, but not just the past. We’re going to talk about the pain of the past. Does that still sound fun? I still think it sounds fun. I wondered where I got this because I have to think about what do I want to name this episode?  And so I’m like, Pain of the Past. Where did that come from? I think I figured it out. And I’m going to have to give credit where credit is due. So pain of the past. These are the words of the famous Anna and infamous Hans. Come on, parents, you know this movie. They say in the song Shay sing. Say goodbye to the pain of the past. I don’t know the key. We don’t have to feel it anymore. Love is an open door. Uh, now, none of you believe I Used to be a worship leader after that showing, but I don’t know the key. And who cares when it’s Disney? You just get to belt it out.


So there it is. Anna and Hans say say goodbye to the pain of the past. Because we have love now. And so thanks to the Frozen movie. We all know how to let go. Of the pain of the past. Just say goodbye. The end. I’m done. We’re only a couple of minutes in. I’m done. Did that work for you? I’m just kidding. Of course I’m going to dive into this with you. We know we can’t just say goodbye. We’ve probably tried it, right? We don’t just say goodbye to the pain of the past and it’s gone. I think we might actually think it. Does work sometimes too, though. Maybe we just think if we chase love like Anna, um, and Hans, they just thought we love each other now. And now the pain of the past is gone. And we promote this in our culture all the time and think the next relationship, the next job, the next chapter in life, the next vacation, the next whatever, once we have it, once we get there, everything’s going to be amazing. And we’ll just say goodbye to the pain of the past, the end. And even if it doesn’t work, we keep trying. Keep trying, doing the same thing time after time. It didn’t work.  But maybe this next guy will raise my pain if I just find the right guy, if I marry the right person, if I get the right job. 


Whatever it is we’re seeking that we. Think is going to solve our problems and make us feel better and not. Be able to have pain anymore, we keep chasing that. And for a lot of us, we think it’s our faith. I think I was there. I mean, I was there with a lot of it too. The right guy, the right job, my faith in line, then everything’s going to be fine. We think if we are in alignment with God’s will, and if we’re trying to honor him and do the right thing, if we’re trying to have a. Righteous life, everything’s just going to get better. But for many of us, that is not the case. That’s why we’re talking about this today, I think. It doesn’t work because we keep trying. To change the situation around us. We’re trying to change the scenery, change the people, change how, uh, other people do things. Whatever it is, we’re trying to change. Things outside of us. But the reality is, changing things outside of us is not going to change what’s going on inside. In pain is an internal experience. And today we’re specifically talking about emotional pain. I’m not talking about physical pain, but emotional pain from our past. That doesn’t happen outside of us, it’s happening inside of us. And so if we want to change. 


Our emotions, guess where we’re going to. Have to do the work inside ourselves. Guess where I’m going to tell you. To do the work? In your thinking. In your brain, in your thoughts. Okay, before we get there though, let’s. Take a look more at the pain. Of the past just by talking about the past. So what is the past? The past is something that happened before. The present moment. It’s already happened. It’s not happening now, it’s not going to happen again. Now, we might say the past repeats. Itself, so something similar or like what. Happened in the past could happen again. But the past, that’s already happened, uh, before now, it’s over. The past is done. The past is history. So in a way, the past exists because we have photos, we have books, we have memories. But even then, the photos and the books, they have no meaning by themselves. 


You ever look at a photo in someone’s house and you’re like, I got nothing. Doesn’t mean anything to me. But for that person, it might be a reminder of the best day ever. Or a very important time in their lives. It’s when someone views the photos or reads the words, and the person who sees them has thoughts in their mind. That’s when the past exists. It’s in our memories. It’s in our thoughts. And that can be a beautiful thing, but that can also be what gets us into trouble. For example, we don’t remember things the same as other people. Have you ever had one of those. Moments when you tell a story and You’re like, remember that time when Aunt Sally made cookies, but she accidentally used walnuts instead of peanuts? And then Uncle Bob had an allergic reaction and that landed him in the hospital? But then cousin Jim chimes in and says, that’s not how I remember it. I remember it was the eggs and the cookies that he was allergic to, not the peanuts. And Grandma Nancy had an EpiPen in her kitchen. They used that, and then they took. Him to the clinic in the morning. That’s what I remember. And this happens everywhere. Think of court cases, family fights, political disagreements, even memories in your family. When you talk about that vacation five. 


Years ago, people are like, that’s not how I remember it. We don’t remember things the same way. We have our own thoughts, different from, uh, everybody else’s. While the past is over and done, it exists in our minds. But we’re only remembering our version of what happened, and we don’t always remember it accurately. I’ve told stories and then had one of my kids correct me and say, oh, it wasn’t actually that, mom. It was this. And I’m like, oh, yeah, you’re right. We just don’t remember things accurately. And even though we know we have mistakes in our memory and our thoughts all the time, we still hang on to the stories of our past sometimes like they’re the gospel truth. We tell ourselves a story about ourselves and what our past meant, and we lock it in. We say things like, I’m like this. Because my dad left when I was young. I’m like this because my mom yelled at me. I’m like this because I was bullied at school. I’m like this because I failed my. First year at college. I’ll always be afraid to get on stage. I’m the kind of person who’s shy and sits in the corner. I was neglected as a kid. That’s why I’m this way. And we hang on to them like they’re the truth. And then we pigeonhole ourselves. And it’s not just the thoughts and the stories. In addition to the thoughts, we’re attaching. Emotion to all of it. And even though we all want to. Be out of pain. We tend to hang on to pain from our stories very tightly, like it’s etched into us. And we have no choice but to carry that pain around with us for the rest of our lives. 


But I don’t think we need to do that. I do an exercise with my clients called The Story of My Past. And I, uh, uh, love this exercise. Not all my clients are so eager to do it, and I know why. It’s because the past means pain to them. They don’t want to feel it. They don’t want to relive it. So we do what we’re great at. We try to ignore it or stuff. It or bury it, or we say leave it in the past where it belongs. But when we keep telling the same painful story about our past, we’re not really leaving it in the past. We’re toting it around with us wherever we go. I kind of think of the story of our past like a storybook. It’s probably a really thick book. It weighs a lot. And we lock it up like those diaries from the, uh, eighties. I always wanted one of those diaries that had the lock and the key with it. It’s like that, but it’s really big. And we lock up that story of our past. We haul it around in our backpack. We think it’s in the past, it’s behind us, but it’s weighing us down and it’s still filled with pain. And we tote it around trying to ignore it. You know, it seeps into our life. Sometimes it does. 


So opening the book and looking at. The story of your past, if it includes pain for you, that can seem scary. I know. But when we take a look at. The story, we create opportunity. When we look at the story, we can decide if we like it the way it is. We can decide if we want to keep it, or we can actually decide we want to rewrite it. That’s where it gets super fun. So I’m just going to take you guys through this. This is an exercise I do in. My coaching program with my clients. But you’re going to get it right. Here, right now, for free. 


So let’s go through this exercise. I’ll just use my life as an example. It’ll almost be like a self coaching session, so that’ll be kind of cool too. The exercise is to give a title to the story of your past and. Title at least four chapters of the book. Let’s just dive right into it. What will I title? The story of my past.I wrote some notes ahead of time when I was preparing for this. So I’m not just thinking of it on the fly. I’ve got it written down here. So I’m calling it. Doing the shuffle. That’s the title of my book, doing the Shuffle. Would you buy that book? It’s probably not a good title. It sounds like a dance book, but it’s not. I’m not a dancer. I’m calling this book do the Shuffle. Because my parents were divorced when I was really little. Every weekend since I was four, I packed a duffel bag and left my mom’s house and went to my dad’s and back again when the weekend was over. I moved from the suburbs to the City when I was ten. When my mom got remarried. Then later, as a teen, we moved back to the suburb. Then I moved out of my parents. House to an apartment. I got married. We moved to another apartment. Then we moved to a house. I was working full time, quit when. He had a baby, sold that house, went back to renting, unsure of my career. Helped my husband with his business. Then we got into another house. I think I just feel like I’ve never quite got settled into being me. I’ve just been responding to life and shuffling around. That title seems to work. Chapter one. I’m going to call that a broken family. 


Chapter Two, we’ll call that marrying the right person will make life Perfect. Chapter Three babies will Fix It until. You lose your sister to cancer and lose yourself to alcohol. That was chapter three. Chapter Four finding Myself in the mess. So, this exercise is kind of. Like an overview of my life story. There were lots of stories of joy. That I’m not thinking about right now in this overview. There were other stories of pain I’m not thinking about in this overview. Because this exercise doesn’t need to be the deep dive. It doesn’t need to go into the. Deep depths of pain and be super scary. We can get leverage of the story of our past just with an overview. At this point, we check in. We did the original version of my past. What kind of emotion does the story create? And even as I was retelling it to you, I could feel the emotions coming up again. And when I prepared for this episode, at this point I had tears in my eyes. They’re there again. 


Emotions that come from the story of my past are um like lost, sad, forgotten, alone and defeated. There’s probably more. This is a story that I carried. Around in my backpack for decades. I carried this past pain around with me. But listen, the past is actually done and over. But, when I tell the story. This way, it’s like I’m scooping up. All the pain in my arms and holding it close. Why do we do this? You and I aren’t doing this because. We’re obsessed with feeling pain. We don’t have some sick need to punish ourselves. It’s not like we like pain more than pleasure. Actually. What’s happening? According to psychologists, the reason we do this is simply because strong emotion is. Attached to these memories. Strong painful memories. They just take up place in our brains. It’s how our brain works. They get logged. They get stored. Strong emotions make moments more memorable.


But it’s also the same reason I have clear memories of being just a few rows back from the front at a Beach Boys concert on the summer. Fest grounds in Milwaukee. When I was a teenager, my older Sister took me to see our favorite band. It was just the two of us, and I felt loved. I felt important. The music was uplifting. I felt amazed. That moment was flooded with strong emotion. And I remember it well. And I remember climbing trees with my stepmom. And I remember singing on stage for the first time. And I remember sailing with my dad. And I remember all these moments with. Strong positive emotions too. There’s tons of those. But why isn’t my story about those? I wonder, why do we gravitate to the painful stories? So digging a little deeper into what. Psychologists know, they’ve been researching this. I found a 2007 study that suggests. That painful or negative situations probably require more brain activity. We need more brain activity to process negative emotion than we do positive emotion. There’s more brain activity to try to navigate a difficult situation. 


There’s more brain activity to try to make sense of a negative situation. This additional brain activity isn’t present with the positive emotions, but we have it with the negative emotions and it creates, like, an additional preservation process. It’s just different than how we process our positive memories. Also, if we remember that the more primitive part of our brain, the part that handles the flight and fight or fight and flight response is the part. Of our brain that is always wanting to seek pleasure. It wants to conserve energy. It wants to avoid pain. The brain likes to store these important painful memories as a way to try to learn and avoid more pain in the future. Like, if I can remember how that was painful, maybe my brain can protect. Me from getting into that kind of. Painful situation in the future. And maybe sometimes it helps. It might. But for the majority of the time, we don’t need to protect ourselves from future pain. The majority of the time, everything’s fine. And this isn’t useful. All it does is keep us feeling pain. Or it puts us into a victim mentality. Or like most of the women I talk to tell me it keeps you feeling stuck. Well, let’s unstuck ourselves from the pain of the past. Remember Anna and Hans? They’re telling us we don’t have to feel it anymore. 


Okay, they got that right. We actually don’t have to feel it anymore. Thanks, Disney. I want to change the story of my past. I don’t want to feel lost, sad, lonely, defeated. I don’t need to. The story I wrote does not help me become the person I want to be in this world. I’m not going to become amazing and do awesome things from those emotions. Changing my story doesn’t mean the version I told you isn’t true. The story I told you already is true. But it’s really only just a fraction of the story. It’s an overabundance of the negative part of my past with very little thought of the positive. And ultimately, I get to tell whatever. Story of the past, my past, that I want to. And I want to tell it in a way that empowers me to live an amazing life instead of a way that leaves me feel stuck. So let’s rewrite my story. The new title of my book is going to be All In For Him. M all in for him. 


Because I’ve loved God since I was a little girl. And over and over through my life, I’ve committed myself to him. Yeah, I’ve messed up along the way. That’s not the point. The point is I have wanted to live my life for him for decades. That is totally true. That can be my title all in for him. Chapter One. Let’s see. I’m going to call chapter one, learning to Love. You know why? As a child, I learned to love God. I learned to love my sisters, even. When they were being big sisters. I learned to love a new stepmom. I learned to love a new stepdad, new stepsisters, a half sister. I had so much opportunity to learn to love. I could go on and on. But this is the overview. So chapter one, learning to Love. Chapter two, let’s call that, uh, opportunity to Grow. Marriage was not a savior, but marriage has been my greatest opportunity to grow in character and get over myself. Opportunity to grow. 


Chapter three. The family I always wanted. I always wanted several kids. I got four. I have a full house. We’ve had cats, messiness, games, movies, vacations, laughter, disagreements, fun, jokes, all of it. Spilled milk. The family I always wanted, I got it. That’s so fun. Okay. Chapter Four stepping into God’s Purpose for Me. I’m calling Chapter four. That because my whole life I’ve been stepping into his purpose. I just didn’t know it. But in the last five years, I’ve been able to see how God has worked. All of it has had it all. Happen for a reason. To bring me right where I am today, filled with passion and purpose. Now let’s put that new story together. And what emotions does that story bring up for me? That story all in for him in. Those four amazing chapters, I feel grateful. I feel empowered, significant. I feel blessed. And I feel content. I, uh, could go on and on. Now I have tears for the positive side. It’s not tears of pain, it’s tears of joy. That’s an awesome story. Just as true as the first story. But one story leaves me stuck and the other story leaves me empowered. That’s an easy choice. Which one I want to tell we. Didn’t even go deep. We didn’t even go deep. But this story makes me love my life. It makes me want to love people and change the world. Listen, people, the past is over. The past is done. The past is history. I don’t need to carry around a Load of pain from it. You don’t need to carry around a Load of pain from it. It’s over. The only thing keeping my pain around is the story in my head. Is it that easy? Yes, it is that easy. It really is. Now, it’s not necessarily an instant process. It might take time, and it might be uncomfortable, but it’s not super complicated. So when I say it’s easy, I’m saying it’s not complicated. 


Sometimes our pain runs deep, and we need help. That’s fine. Get help. If you need help to do this, be willing to let it take time. Sometimes you might want to pull out. The old story instead of the new story. That’s okay. Give yourself lots of grace. Take all the time you need. I can hear some of you asking. Diana, can you help me change my story? Let go of pain I’ve been carrying. Around, and the answer is yes. Yes, I can. I help women just like you every day. And I help people through my free mind shift coaching call. You’ve heard me mention it before. All you have to do is click on the link in the notes for this episode. Find the schedule a coaching call link, pick a time that works for you. Drop your email in, and you’ll get an email with all the details, and We’ll get on a video chat, and I will help you. You don’t need to be stuck anymore. You don’t. You can change your story and relieve yourself from the pain of the past. You can change your story to unstuck yourself and lighten your load. You can change your story and step into more joy. Feel empowered and love your life. This is the power of renewing your mind. And you can change your story. All ah. Right, y’all, that’s it for today. So I’ll catch you next week. Take care. 


As an advanced certified life coach, I help Christian women trying to live their best lives, but they still feel unsatisfied and stuck. I teach thought management skills that work so you can enjoy life again and step into who God has created you to be. Don’t forget to head on over to rympodcast.com to get my free resources or a free coaching call.

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