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“Oh yes, the past can hurt. But you can either run from it or learn from it.”

Rafiki: The Lion King.

If life is a school, then one of its most effective teaching aids would be our experiences. They’re the culmination of all we’ve been through in life; good, bad and ugly. It’s one of the tools life has used to mould you into the person you are today. Are you timid and shy? It’s likely that an experience emphasised over time is responsible for it. Are you a brute and just love to pummel your way through people’s emotions and feelings?  I would like to believe that you were not born that way but was shaped by your experience. Our experiences can be divided into three broad kinds;

 Things that happen to us

These are the ones that tend to have the greatest effect on us. Imagine sharing a bunk in school with a bully who beat on you every day for an entire year. That could be the underlining motivation behind the ‘Mike Tyson punch’ you threw at your boss last week, even though the original experience that caused you to snap is a twenty-five year old oppression.

Things we happen to:

These are the effects we have on others. When your actions are what affect other people. For instance, if you were the bully in school or the kind lady that feeds the homeless folk by the street corner, we could say you are the experience that happens to others.

Things that happen around us

These are the ones that happen to others, but we get to see or hear about it. They provide the greatest volume of our experience bank. We log the things we see around us, and they inform our decisions when faced with similar situations. Seeing someone attacked by a dog can give you such a robust fear of dogs that will have you flying over a six foot fence when next you see a dog’s photo.   All our experiences, whether fun or not, make changes in us. These changes create our psychological construction. The good thing is that we can decide the kind of change we wish each experience to make in us, if we consciously choose our response. This is where Rafiki hit the nail on the head when he said “… the past can hurt. But you can either run from it or learn from it…”  Ignoring, or worse, trying to run away from our experiences is like the myth of the ostrich that buries his head in the sand to hide from its predator. It thinks that since it can no longer see the predator, that the predator can no longer see it. Great plan! Well, except for the seven foot butt sticking up in the air.    Our experiences are tools; whether they become destructive or constructive depends on how we use them. Let me give you a few points before you decide which way to go;

You’re not alone

It does not matter what you’ve experienced, someone has experienced it too, someone else is experiencing it as we speak, and someone else will experience it after today. Even more, some of these people survived it, and so can you.  

 It’s instructive

“Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me,” the saying goes. Your history teaches you how to navigate your future. What to avoid and what to repeat. After you have experienced something today, it helps you know how to handle similar issues tomorrow.

 It matures you

It’s yours, own it! You are who you are today because of all you’ve been through. The combination of successes and heartbreaks you’ve had, is what has made you the wise person you are today, so cherish it. The list goes on and on. The important point is that by consciously and constructively assessing and responding correctly to our experiences, we choose the effects they have on us, and more importantly, who we become, because of, and in spite of all our experiences. Have a great life Y’all!

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This article was first published on 4th June 2017

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