When we look back on the past – whether just yesterday or many years ago, sometimes we think, “I wish I knew then what I know now.”
To help find peace of mind in the present, try working with that wish in your journaling practice. Go back to that previous time for a dialog with your younger self. Say all the things you wish you had heard at the time. The process is likely to turn up greater understanding than you expected, with insights into your present life as well as healthy perspectives on past events.
In your journal, write a letter to your past self, following these steps.
1. Take several minutes to make a mental picture of a time in your past that was stressful. Why was this period so challenging for you and exactly how did you feel? What kind of support would have helped you cope better? Are there mistakes you wish you could go back and redo? Are there decisions you made at the time that you still stand by?
2. Then spend a couple minutes making a mental list of what you have learned since that difficult time. If you could sit with your younger self and share an important piece of advice, what would it be?
3. On a fresh page in your journal, start a letter to yourself. Include as many details as you can remember of your life at that time. Be as empathetic as you can be towards your former self: be respectful of the feelings you had and understanding of the decisions you made.
4. Then give some advice to your younger self. What can your present self offer that might have helped you at that time? Say whatever you think would have been a wake-up call for you then. Be gentle, blunt, or funny; be kind but firm.
5. Before putting your pen down, be sure your letter includes a statement of love and forgiveness for your earlier self. Be sincere and generous, and reassure your past persona that you will be okay. After all, you survived and made it to today!
When you’re done writing, consider for a moment whether the advice you just shared might be relevant to any current issues in your life. What do you think your future self would say to you now?