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‘Be brave. Take risks. Nothing can substitute experience.’ (Paulo Coelho)
As you get older and your life follows its unique twists and turns, it can be difficult to avoid becoming cynical and a bit ‘bah humbug’ about it all – like so many Ebenezer Scrooges! Yes, the ideal would be to move towards wisdom and tolerance but often this doesn’t happen. Repeated exposure to hurts and disappointments finds many people avoiding hope and dialling way down on enthusiasm.
However, this approach limits your ability to stay open to new possibilities. If you can, try instead to learn from your experiences but see the present with fresh eyes. Sometimes, when things have not gone your way, you might develop a knee-jerk response to current situations, based on those experiences. Your reactions could be clouded by hangover feelings attached to past events, especially if some bad stuff went down.
I think of it as your brain trying to be helpful by protecting you from something that has caused harm in the past. A simple example is how you avoid food that has previously made you violently ill. Perhaps a Tequila drinking binge has turned you off the tipple for life! Yep, we’ve all been there.
A more distressing example is the association that people with anxieties or phobias often develop between an attack and whatever they were doing at the time. So, if you were on a bus when you experienced an anxiety attack, you start to avoid all public transport to try and prevent some very unpleasant feelings! In reality, the anxiety was probably due to thoughts you were having, rather than any particular external stimulus.
Staying open to new experiences becomes almost impossible when you’ve been stung a few times. Bad past relationships find you developing a Pavlov’s dog-like response to the possibility of a new one. A failure in a business venture can be so painful that you never try again. The more fragile your ego, the harsher these failures will seem.
In many instances though, this situation happening in the present is not the same as what has happened before – most importantly because you are not the same person and……you now have more information at your fingertips. If you failed at something in the past it doesn’t mean you will fail again.
Why? Because you have knowledge. You also know that you survived the downs before so you have a track record of bouncing back! Therefore, I’d bet on you making it again.
This….is not that! This is a unique situation at a different point in time. Back yourself to make it work and use everything you’ve learned to approach things in a positive way.
Take care and be kind to each other
P.S. With apologies to Charles Dickens.