Glenn Stok has a Master of Science degree. He enjoys researching topics related to health, relationships, and emotional well-being.
The purpose of this essay is to illustrate how toxic early-life experiences can harm your future endeavors. This awareness may awaken memories of your past experiences and help discover things that set the stage for where you are now.
When you acknowledge that everything that is happening today results from those experiences, it will help you conquer the past and its adverse effects.
How Your Past Affects Your Future
Thoughts and memories of our past affect how we live today and how happy or sad we are. If we were not satisfied with our past, one would think we would be motivated to change our lives for a better future. However, if we are not aware of how our past affects us, we may be stuck in a never-ending “life theme” that is not what we want.
I think that anyone who is unhappy with their past would have no desire to repeat it. So why allow the unfavorable events to keep reoccurring?
For example, some people choose similar partners if a prior marriage failed. They promote the same failed business venture instead of trying something new. They make the same investments even though they lost money with the last one.
Many people repeat their mistakes, hoping to make it work the next time. They redo whatever failed, hoping it will have a different outcome the next time.
This persistence and single-minded attitude could be due to unresolved issues concerning prior toxic experiences.
How to Overcome Adverse Effects of Your Past
I became aware of how the decisions I make today are based on my past. So I thought of the following three points to help avoid letting my past experiences affect my present choices.
When you read these three points, try to relate the concepts to your life. It could help you too.
- Don’t dismiss the past, accept it, and learn from it. Then do something about it.
- Detect when you are wasting energy worrying that something you remember from a bad experience will happen again. Apply that energy to focus on more constructive behaviors.
- Catch yourself when you have negative thoughts. Try to dismiss those concerns as quickly as you can, by recognizing where they are coming from.
Discover What Set the Stage of Where You Are Now
Some of us follow harmful patterns that keep repeating, stalling any ability to develop a future we dream of having. Much of this is due to toxic lessons of the past that still control our behavior.
You might be concerned with issues such as these:
- Repeating negative experiences that you may not like to happen, but they do.
- Disappointing episodes seem to be a theme of your "life story," and you feel you have no control.
If you find this happening in your life, don’t be too hard on yourself. There is an unintentional reason for it. It might be related to a painful event that you don’t even remember—an event hidden from your conscious mind.
Try to review your past to determine the cause of the behavior you’re not happy with. Once you are conscious of what happened, you can gain control over its adverse effects.
Some of the memories may be confusing. It’s only human nature; we tend to dismiss thoughts that puzzle us. We may think they are not relevant because we deny the effects from our past life stories. Painful memories may block our ability to proceed with the desired goals.
Be Mindful of Complex Matters
We may not always be able to see the links between early-life events and how we function now. We even end up refusing to acknowledge it. That can cause us to overlook what is affecting us.
Our past experiences may haunt us, but what complicates things, even more, is that there may very well be multiple events throughout our lives that don’t seem to be connected. Therefore, we can’t quite identify with it.
When we try to be mindful of this, we can look back and find various things that happened before that still have a strong influence on us today.
These things are not easy, especially if past experiences in our early life left us psychologically impaired due to stress.
Early Life Toxic Stress
Toxic stress put upon children can cause many health risks in adulthood, such as cardiovascular disease, cancers, asthma, and depression.1
Early-life toxic stress can also cause one to develop mental health problems that emerge later and lifelong learning and behavior problems, making adulthood more challenging than it already is.2
If you recall extreme stress episodes when you were a child and are not in good health as an adult, it might be in your best interest to seek a professional’s advice with these concerns, as it could be related.
Growing Up With Parents Lacking Love
This last point can be another form of early-life stress and affects us just as powerfully.
When one grows up and becomes involved with other people in adult social interactions, their troubled childhood damages their ability to function in society. That is impaired even further when their parents failed to show a healthy attitude of love and devotion.
Parents who had unresolved trauma in their childhood might tend to find it difficult to share love and intimacy with their children. Then those children end up carrying the lack of affection into their adult interactions.3
The result is an inability to establish strong ties in a meaningful relationship.
We will not make crucial changes unless we stop wasting time repeating the old nonsense. I like how the following proverb explains that in a few words:
"Don’t let yesterday use up too much of today."
~ Old Cherokee Indian Proverb 4
We need to understand the driving force that causes us to repeat mistakes. When we know how our past affects our choices today, we will find it easier to avoid repeating negative patterns. It begins with recognizing and acknowledging your early-life toxic experiences to overcome its effects.
- Sara B. Johnson, Anne W. Riley, Douglas A. Granger, Jenna Riis. (Jan 21, 2013). "The science of early life toxic stress for pediatric practice and advocacy." National Institute of Health
- "Early Childhood Mental Health." Harvard University Center on the Developing Child
- Robert W Firestone Ph.D. (Oct 7, 2015). "8 Reasons Parents Fail to Love Their Kids." Psychology Today
- Toni Bernhard J.D. (Oct 10, 2012), "30 Quotes on Mindfulness." Psychology Today
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2020 Glenn Stok
Glenn Stok (author) from Long Island, NY on October 09, 2020:
Thank you everyone who read and commented on this new article. I appreciate the feedback that you gave me.
Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on October 07, 2020:
Great message. Your article is very helpful, and I like that Ralph Waldo Emerson quote. Thanks for pushing us away from destroying ourselves.
Elsa Joseph from Kolkata, India on September 29, 2020:
Abby Slutsky from America on September 19, 2020:
You have some excellent ideas. However, not to generalize, but at least in my family, women have a lot more difficulty not worrying.
Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on September 18, 2020:
I think this is an excellent article, Glen. It is very well organized. I agree with everything you said and as an older woman I learned long ago to learn from my mistakes.