"Nothing is meaningless… it's how we assign meaning to the past that determines how we experience the present, and future."
~ Bill Crawford

“Nothing is meaningless… it’s how we assign meaning to the past that determines how we experience the present, and future.” ~ Bill Crawford

Dealing with Past Mistakes “Golden Repair”

This quote came from a question someone asked on one of my recent YouTube videos about the past, present, and future. The person asked whether, given my perspective on the past, did I think that past struggles were meaningless? I responded that, no, quite the contrary. I believe that it is how we ascribe meaning that determines our experience of life, regardless of whether we are talking about the past, present, or future.

While this is certainly true, I felt this subject deserved a more well-thought out response, and therefore I decided to create a new video on giving meaning to the past (see YouTube) and write this short essay on the subject.

Of course, for those of you who follow my “Life from the Top of the Mind” philosophy, you know that I look at pretty much everything in terms of how the brain processes information. And, based upon the latest research, we know that it is the middle part of the brain, or the limbic system that unconsciously attributes meaning to what we think, feel, see, do… as well as what we have done in the past.

Unfortunately, because this is being done habitually versus purposefully, many people tend to look at past struggles and make them mean something bad about who they are… they’re not good enough, not intelligent enough, there is something wrong with them, they will never be happy or successful, etc. Of course, none of us is born attributing our failures to our worth, or no one would ever learn to walk. However, somewhere along the way, many of us learn to stop seeing our struggles as good information about the process, and start seeing them as bad information about us.

If this is something you would not recommend to someone you love, I suggest we change how we give meaning to the past. For example, there is an ancient Japanese art known as Kintsugi that actually takes this concept of giving more purposeful meaning to the past one step further. Called “Golden Repair,” Kintsugi is the art of repairing broken pottery and other ceramics with gold. As a result, the original piece isn’t just repaired, it is enhanced and becomes a work of art.

I believe that we can see ourselves this way, and in doing so, move beyond just minimizing the pain of the past and recognize that what we have gone though and survived has indeed made us stronger, wiser, and more resilient. We can see our scars as something to be proud of and what makes us unique, just as we would suggest to someone we love.

Therefore, if you have found yourself looking at past struggles as meaningless, or worse, interpreted some past experience as meaning something negative about your self-worth, I suggest you shift to a more purposeful process of interpretation… one that you would recommend to someone you love. Look at the way you have healed as “golden repair” and shift from fear and shame to love as a guide for how you attribute meaning. In doing so you will raise the potential that love will continue to be the energy that drives your thoughts, emotions, and behaviors in the present and beyond.

~ All the best, Dr. Bill