The desire to set objectives, design strategies and move forward is a familiar feature of modern living. From personal initiatives to work targets, the focus is very much on the future. The past is so often forgotten or brushed over because our sights are set on what’s next. But, as the old adage goes ― you don’t know where you are going, until you know where you’ve come from. There is then a lot to be said for integrating the past.

Looking to the past

The purpose of looking to the past is not to wallow in it, but rather to integrate it so that you can wholeheartedly embrace where you want to go in the future. Integrating the past is about deeply acknowledging what was and taking with you any wisdom arising from your experiences.

All of us have had painful experiences in our lives, and some of us more than others. Sometimes, these experiences may  have a huge emotional impact. Yet, we can lock these away because they are too difficult to look at. Having the courage to confront these experiences and say “that was very difficult for me” is the starting point for integrating the past.

By acknowledging the past you allow it to stay in its rightful place ― the past, so that you may move on. Unwillingness to work through and integrate difficult experiences can often result in what is unresolved resurfacing in the future. Like a dam that suddenly breaks.

Remembering joys is part of integrating the past

The same way you avoid difficult past experiences, you might also brush over nurturing and energising ones. Experiences that have had an important impact on who you are. Recognising the joyful and inspiring times from your past is just as important as drawing strength and wisdom from your difficulties.

This is especially true if you are working through difficult ones — it is useful to balance things out. Because together, they have shaped the unique qualities and skills you bring as a human being. So, we must not forget either.

integrating the past

Only if there is a need

Of course, integrating the past may only be necessary IF there is a need. For example, if there are unhealthy patterns and behaviours that stop you from living well today. Patterns that may have their roots in the past, such that you might benefit from exploring and integrating them. And, if there is nothing that is troubling you, well then there is no need to go chasing shadows!

Integrating the past is about letting go

Busy urban living can often make you feel like you need to always look to the future. Sometimes, taking a step back to consider where you have come from and simply acknowledge what was, can be very powerful. Particularly, if you avoid looking at the past (whether consciously or non-consciously) when there is something significant that calls out to you. Perhaps because it is just too painful.

The courage to really look, acknowledge and integrate the past is the path to inner freedom. You free yourself by truly letting go and leaving those things where they belong ― in the past.


Harsha Perera Life CoachHarsha is a 1:1 coach and independent thinker based in London. He empowers people to find more clarity, confidence and focus in their lives — to cut through the noise, in a world so full of it. Harsha’s new book, Machine Ego: Tragedy of the Modern Mind, is now available in paperback and Kindle through Amazon.