Don’t let your past trauma define your future identity!

I remember having missed a penalty in a crucial game which cost my team the match and a chance to play in the finals.  I couldn’t sleep the night after and as I couldn’t’ cope with the effects of the emotional trauma it had on me.  Our team was put up inside the stadium facility, so I stepped out of my room and was sitting by the turf and ruminating about the missed opportunity.  It was midnight and my coach caught me in a distraught state.  He walked up to me and gave me a lesson which I would never forget.

“You will be the team’s first choice for taking the penalty in the next match as well” he said.  It was for the third place play-off.  My hands started to sweat and my mind went blank when I heard this from him.  Far from taking the penalty, I was contemplating of sitting out the next one, for I didn’t want to commit another blunder and cost my team.  “Will you keep running away from environments where you failed?  In this way there will be a time when you will be doing nothing” said my coach.  “Remember your past shouldn’t limit your future.  Learn to remain in the moment and focus on what you have to do in the ‘here’ and ‘now’ and let all your actions be towards your future goal”.  You can’t go into the past and change it can you?  If you convince me that you can go back into the past and change the outcome of the match which is done and dusted then I won’t stop you from sitting out, he said. All you can do and have control is what you will do in the moment.  I did realize that I was trying to define my future self on the basis of my past and that was not going to help.  I needed to focus on the match ahead.

When we talk of trauma, we mostly think of major events in our life.  However, we must realize that it comes in variety of forms and is part of each of our lives.  It can manifest from any negative experience or incident that shapes who you are and how you choose to operate in this world.  We all have experienced or impacted by such trauma, haven’t we?

When we have negative experiences we start to think about everything in binaries. I failed, so I am not good at this. 

This kind of fixed mindset that you cannot develop or grow is a typical approach which is defined by the past.  Our emotions take charge and we do not critically evaluate what happened.  We do not have enough data or evidence to support or justify it.  My own situation of missing a penalty was a first and had not happened in the past for me.  How could I then give up playing a sport just based on this one incident?

The emotion that I should stay away from this manifested from a terrible emotional experience of letting down my team.

I realize that people do not want to deal with or confront failure.  Instead of trying they convince themselves to simply go for a less painful and risky option of escape.

“You have an opportunity to help your team get a podium finish.  By not playing you are going to deny yourself and the team from this wonderful chance” the words of my coach kept ringing in my mind and I just screamed out loud and let all the negative steam out of my system.

This is one very important reason why you shouldn’t be making decisions about your future when you are in a traumatic and emotionally broken state.  From that state our choices will be limited.

We somehow continually settle for lesser goals in order to avoid pain.  By avoiding our fears and not facing up to the truth, we limit our ability to achieve our dreams and goals.

“In professional sports you do not have time to get upset and discouraged if you miss a chance.  You have to get back in the game and stay attentive in the moment and remain committed to your goal of helping your team win, regardless of how you are feeling.  If you keep ruminating on the missed penalty or a chance to score then you won’t be able to operate fully on the field, which will create more problems for you and your team” were the concluding remarks of my Coach that night and I thank him for supporting me and guiding me through that traumatic experience.

I learnt that the less you hold on to mistakes and painful experiences, the better you are able to align your current actions to achieve your goals.  What happened in the past doesn’t have to impact your present.

Your trauma could be in any area of your life – failure in math, a lost business deal, interpersonal conflicts, financial loss, being at the receiving end of deceit or loss of a dear one.

Ask yourself this one question “Can I go back in time and change the outcome?”  I was fortunate to have an empathetic witness in the form of my coach, who helped me alter my experience.

Do Not Ever Allow Your Past Traumatic Experience To Define Your Future Identity!

Leave a Reply