Is there a mistake from your past that still haunts you?

An event that produce a gripping sensation in your chest or a churning feeling in your stomach when you bring it to mind?

Can you still feel the shame, embarrassment or humiliation? Can you hear the thoughts in your mind:“How could I have done that. I don’t know what I was thinking. I’m not sure how I let that happen. I let everyone down”.

If this is true for you, then you may still be carrying toxic shame from your past. It means you haven’t been able to forgive yourself and move on from this event.

If you are unsure whether you’ve let go or not of a past mistake, just notice how you judge others who make the same mistake. Do you feel the empathy and understanding for them because you’ve been there? Or do find yourself being judgmental and critical. If your reaction is in any way negative, then that’s a reflection of your own unforgiveness towards yourself.

And most of us move on from them. But when some memories still create discomfort ten, twenty or thirty years later, then it means that the shame or embarrassment that occurred back then is still playing out in your subconscious and therefore not only affecting your mind but also your body!

Anytime you’re in a situation that remotely looks, feels, smells, sounds, or tastes like one of those past major mistakes, that memory may get activated in your subconscious mind. You’ll be replaying and reproducing the same chemical and physical reactions in your body as you did at the time of the original event. In this way you keep the past alive in the present moment. When this happens you become a victim of your past.

You see, your subconscious mind is like a tape player. It simply records experiences from your life and replays them. It’s not good or bad, it is just a tape player. The programs in it can be good or bad however.

On a day to day basis your subconscious mind runs your life 90% of the time while your conscious mind runs about 10% of the show. Your subconscious mind runs your digestion, immune and respiratory functions. It’s a million times more powerful than your conscious mind.

Once your conscious mind has learned something it then files it into the subconscious mind for it to run the program automatically. That way you can use your conscious mind for creative purposes. For example, once your have learned to drive, you don’t have to think about it anymore, it becomes automatic.

Positive thinking is a program from our conscious mind that is trying to compete with a much more powerful program from our subconscious mind. When there is a subconscious programming from the past that says: “I’m bad or stupid for making this mistake, I should have known better, this mistake shows I’m not good enough or I don’t deserve to succeed”, then positive thinking or awareness of the problem is just not enough to eradicate this destructive programming.

These limiting beliefs influence the choices you make in the future. They may affect your ability to succeed because success in any area of your life has very little to do with your efforts and almost everything to do with the beliefs in your subconscious mind!

Shameful, negative beliefs can keep you paralyzed in the fear of making any future mistakes, which often manifests as procrastination. Your subconscious programming may be telling you that you don’t deserve success because you haven’t really earned it or you are actually a fraud.

A mistake

Sometimes these beliefs are so stubbornly anchored in us, despite our good intentions and our willingness to change, we just can’t let them go. It’s as if we don’t know who we would be without this programming. “Who would I be if I wasn’t always worrying about not making a mistake?” Daily our subconscious programming keeps us stuck in the past.

Written by:

Claire Maisonneuve, MA.

Registered Clinical Counsellor
Director of the Alpine Anxiety & Stress Relief Clinic

Note: In all case histories and examples other than those pertaining to myself and my family I have changed names and any identifying characteristics in an attempt to protect and preserve privacy and anonymity. The stories usually represent composites of people struggling with the issues discussed.