The Power of Your Past Meets the Power of Now

By John P. Schuster / Source: Psychology Today
There is nothing wrong with the power of now, as far as it goes. The problem is that now by itself is just not enough. The current emphasis on presence is a good one, but it is only half the story.
We had a visceral negative reaction to the following sentence when we read first read it, “I rarely think of my past and have little use for it.” Can you tell us what book starts with that sentence? It has been read by a lot of people. It is none other than the first sentence of the very popular, sold-about-a-squillion-copies, The Power of Now, by Eckhart Tolle.
We still have that same reaction. It is an extreme view that devalues the past and has dangerous implications. It suggests that if we get our act together and really get in touch with the present than we too will rarely think of our pasts and have little use for it. That is balderdash.
Of course, not frittering away our good thoughts in regrets about the past or worry about the unknown future has value. There is an old Cherokee saying that says, “Don’t let the thoughts of the past take up too much of the present.” That strikes us, Ed and John, the co-bloggers, as about right. Don’t spend excessive time on the past because we live from now forward.
But it is natural to review our pasts for lessons, wisdom, anchoring our identities, and even healing old scars of course, something psychology and all wise people know a lot about. Our memories are a treasure trove of wisdom and learning when we know how to approach it. And yes we can get stuck there too.
The simple truth is that the power of your past is every bit as potent as the power of now. Neils Bohr, the great physicist, taught us all that when, while exploring the frontiers of quantum physics, he noted that the opposite of a great truth is not a falsehood, but another great truth.
So here is a tip: think about how you relate to your past. Here are a few prompts for you to help you think about it:
  • Do you think about having a relationship with your past as an important part of your life? Sure you want a good relationship with your body, your feelings, with food, your friends, and your family. What about your past?
  • Do you try to now-it-out at all times because you read the now literature and it makes sense to you?
  • Are you nostalgic about your past, or an avoider of it? Or don’t you much know?

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