Why We Keep Repeating the Past

Do you ever wonder why you keep doing the same things? Why do you keep picking the same type of guy (or gal)? Why you keep taking the same type of job that you don’t like?

We repeat things because it’s familiar, we don’t give it much thought or we don’t like change.

The same is true for reliving the past or telling ourselves the same story. “If it happened this way then, it’ll happen that way again.” 

While that may seem logical at first look, we really don’t know how things will turn out the second time around. So why do we make that prediction?

Because it’s familiar. We know how the story ended the first time so we assume it will turn out the same way the second time.

Only it doesn’t have to.

First, let’s examine a little closer why we stay with what’s familiar.

Biology Isn’t Always Our Friend

It’s biological.

In the brain we have neural pathways which are a series of connected nerves along which electrical impulses travel in the body.

Every time we think about the past, go over our regrets or re-live stories from our past, we fire these same nerves which elicit a chemical response (hormones etc.).  The next time a similar situation occurs our body reacts by producing the same chemicals as it did the last time. The chemicals cause the same emotional response. The same emotional response keeps us stuck in the past because we often resort to the same behavior or reaction.

You can see now how staying in the past is really a habit. When our brain responds the same way to similar situations it becomes a habit. A habit that you have to be aware of to break.

Every time you find yourself in the past you can re-direct your attention to the present. Because it’s a habit to stay in the past (the way your brain has been “trained”), it will take some time to form a new habit of staying present.

To stop repeating the same behaviors and patterns we’re fighting a bit of an uphill battle because we’re fighting our biology. Our subconscious likes to stick with the past because it’s familiar. It actually craves the chemical reaction our body produces like an addiction.

It doesn’t like the future because the outcome is unknown. It’s human nature to resist the unknown because our body doesn’t like the unknown.  That would mean it’d have to create a new response. But it’s so much easier to stick with the old one. Besides, your brain was already wired for it. See what I mean? Your body is unconsciously working against you. Not because it’s your enemy, but because that’s how we’re designed.

What’s Your Reaction?

How did you react the last time you were stressed out? It can be something as minor as someone cutting you off in traffic or jumping in front of you in the grocery store line. Or it could be something bigger like a fight with your partner or child.

Did you react the same way? Did you say the same type of things? Did you stomp off? Or tune out by checking your phone?

You might not recall how you reacted then, but your body does. Your body programmed you to react the same way you did whenever you had a similar situation that produced those emotions. Your body is used to those feelings so it craves to reproduce them again and again. Thus, your behavior really is a product of your biology.

As long as you continue to react the same way in similar situations your life stays the same.  You don’t change. You don’t get the results you desire. You keep taking that cr*ppy job or continue dating the same j*rks.  Then you wonder why you keep doing that? Because your brain is literally telling you to by signaling those same chemicals.

There’s nothing wrong with staying the same. Unless staying the same produces something we don’t like or want to change.

Don’t Go “Insane”

You know the definition of insanity: Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

If you don’t change how you think about something, the next time it comes up, your body will produce the same reaction leading you to feel the same way about it. Thus, change doesn’t happen. Partly because it’s scary. It feels scary because it’s your brain resisting. It’s subconsciously telling your body to release those same chemicals so you can feel the same way, so you can stay the same. Your brain is keeping you in the same pattern.

It worked for the cave man because he was wired for: see bear, run. But we’re not cavemen anymore.  We’re much more complex. We have bigger decisions. They may not be life or death decisions, but they affect our paycheck or our love life.

If you want to get out of the “caveman rut” where you’re a victim of biology, then you have to re-wire your brain for change and stop reacting the same way. It takes conscious awareness to undo that subconscious programming. The caveman didn’t have the luxury of examining his feelings and making a different decision. He was pretty much focused on how am I going to survive today? We do have that luxury so we need to get out of our reptilian brain (the part that controls the “fight or flight” reaction) and interrupt the programming to make new and better choices.

Pay Attention to YOU

To do that we must learn to manage our attention – to ourselves. Not the TV, not our phone, not our bestie. Tune out the outer world and tune into your inner world. YOU.

Pay attention to what you’re thinking and feeling. When you ask someone how they feel the common answer is, “I don’t know.” What do you mean you don’t know? How can you not know what you’re feeing right now? Well, most of us don’t.

That’s when we have to stop and catch ourselves. Tune in. Become aware. Be present. Learn to get quiet with yourself so that when you ask yourself how you feel right now you have an immediate answer.  Next time when you have a fight with your partner if your immediate reaction is to walk away or start yelling, catch yourself. How would you rather react now?  Actually, it’s better to respond, not react. There’s a subtle but big difference.

Since it’s hard to think of a new strategy in the heat of an argument, give it some thought ahead of time. If you want to have a new response to an argument, what would it be? Think about that for a bit. Then, when the argument happens, you already have your go-to response.  It may take a while to remember to do it every time an argument happens. That’s ok. It takes at least two weeks to form a new habit.

Next time the argument happens or you’re about to take an unsatisfactory job, get quiet. Do you really want to yell back? Do you really want to sit in cubie-world wishing you weren’t there? If the answer is no, then remember what your new habit is. Oh yeah, this time I said I wouldn’t take that kind of job.

Get conscious. Get aware.  That’s how you form new neural pathways and stop producing the same chemicals that cause you to act the way you don’t want to. Then the past doesn’t have to repeat itself. This way you can create a new future and get new results.

There’s another huge benefit of getting present. When you get quiet it’s much easier to listen to your inner guidance, your intuition! If you want to learn how to listen to it, how to talk to it and how to trust it by CLICKING

Once you start listening to your intuition, you’ll be amazed how much your life clicks into place. Then you can truly start enjoying yourself. CLICK HERE to find out more!