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Remembering Our Past as a Positive Gateway to Our Future
By Dr. Barbara Becker Holstein

Do you realize that your past experiences hold the key to a better future! Each of us can learn to unlock the door to a better future by understanding the promise that exists in our own unique memories.

Many times in life we struggle between hope and hopelessness. One place to find hope is in the promise of your own past. No matter how difficult your childhood may have been or how busy or anxious you felt, the jewel of your own potential still showed through at times. Maybe it was what kept you going.

Perhaps you loved dance class as a little girl or singing songs with grandma, or cooking, or growing vegetables, or taking care of a pet. Maybe you had a rock or coin collection that meant a lot to you. No matter how gummed up your earlier days were, you lived them and within them was the promise of your own potential.

Sometimes your potential may have shown through just because of dysfunction or difficult times. For example, if your family was fighting you had to find a way to escape. You may have connected with yourself by climbing up into a tree house that you had built and decorated with your own hands. Problems at home may have pushed you to study harder, or to learn to do something better, so that you could spend more time with your studies or your hobbies, and less time thinking about your problems.

If you can get back to your own sense of promise--then hope can reemerge as you see ways of reinventing yourself. Of course, as we get older and evolve, some dreams are gone forever in terms of being practical. For example, we may not be able to be a commercial airline pilot if we never learned how to fly, or a conductor of an orchestra if we have not pursued music theory.

Although we can't make all our own choices in life, we can make a lot of them. We often decide where we will live, whom we will marry, how we will live, how we will spend our leisure time, etc. Also, as we get older we have more options to work out, a compromise between our dreams and what might be a practical reality. We have more capacities to resolve a situation and creatively find a way to bring forth one's promise from childhood into a new form.

Is making a positive future easy? I wouldn't call it easy, but having a future with meaning, hope and joy is obtainable. That's the beauty of your own promise. It's obtainable if you are willing to be practical and very specific.

It is crucial to learn how to look back into your own past, to discover unique enhanced states of well being. As you begin to recognize these positive states of well being, i.e., THE ENCHANTED SELF, you can become a better expert at understanding what made them heightened joyful times.

It may not be enough to remember a wonderful day that you spent at the circus with your uncle. It's pleasant to recall but it may not teach you enough in order to help you find your own promise. You have to be more specific. Why did you like that day? Was it the weather conditions? Was it the way you felt that day? Was it being with this particular uncle? Was it something you saw at the circus that excited you? Was it something you purchased? Was it something you ate? Was it the way the air smelled? And so on. The more you can specifically isolate what made the memory enchanting, the more you can practice positive states of well being.

Dr. Barbara Becker Holstein is the originator of The Enchanted Self. She has been a positive psychologist in private practice and licensed in the states of New Jersey and Massachusetts since 1981. Her book, The Enchanted Self, A Positive Therapy, was published in 1997 by Harwood Academic Publishers and is now in its second printing. She has just published her second book on the concept of enchantment: Recipes for Enchantment, The Secret Ingredient is YOU!

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