Why Dwelling in the Past is Toxic for You and the People Around You

Why Dwelling in the Past is Toxic for You and the People Around You

Do you ever feel like you are the cause of many of your problems? It’s not a surprise that most of us don’t want to admit that our worries are somewhat related to our doings, even though deep down inside we know that it’s truly us who are the problem.

And many of our problems are always related to our past whether we consciously or unconsciously are aware of that. Perhaps that is because no one has ever told us about it, or we do not spend quality time learning about ourselves. Holding on to the past will, unfortunately, hold us back.

Dwelling in the past is not only toxic for you but also for the people around you.

You can either:

  • Learn from the past and move on.
  • Feel bitter about your past and dwell in it.

Dwelling in the Past is Self-defeating

Look, we’ve all made mistakes in our lives. Nobody’s perfect.

It’s important to acknowledge the idea that everyone, including you, needs time to grow. When I say grow, I mean mental growth.

There are many things that you can still remember from the past; some good and some bad things. You’ll realise that there are certain things that you don’t really care about anymore while there are many other things that are dissatisfying. Comparing the two, you will see that the former makes you feel calm and happy, while the latter makes you angry and sad.


Of course, dwelling in the past is related to our fear, anger, shame, guilt, and other kinds of emotions that are triggered by the events in our lives. Having these emotions is perfectly normal, and they are helpful in helping us grow in many ways.

We can overcome bitterness, anger, sadness and unhappiness. How you wish to feel in the future doesn’t always have to be affected by how you feel today. While you’re in the present, feel what you feel, but allow these feelings to go away if all they do is hurt you.

If we allow negative emotions to overcome our judgment and our freedom to be happy, we’ve lost control over ourselves; and when we lose control over ourselves, we’ve been defeated by the toxicity of our own thoughts.

How it Affects the People Around You:

When we share our negative vibes with the people around us, we inadvertently bring them down as well.

Every person in the world has a different character. Some of these people will tolerate and put up with other people’s crap, while some won’t. Those who choose to tolerate our negativity are usually the individuals who have strong connections with us. Those who quickly leave, on the other hand, are usually those who may not understand, or even try to understand us and the reasons why we’re unhappy.

Yes, good people will stick around you long enough, if you mean something to them, or if they simply want to help; but it’s important for you to remember that everyone else is a being too; they have feelings like you do.

And even the good ones will eventually detach themselves from you once they’ve realised that it’s time for them to let you go.


Dwelling in the Past Will Cost You Your friendship

Once people have had too much pressure put onto their shoulders, there will be a point in their lives when they finally remind themselves that enough is enough.

Eventually, they’ll come to a decision whereby they no longer want to be a part of whatever that’s negatively affecting them, emotionally and mentally.

I’m sure this is something all of us can relate to, and when someone has decided to move on, there’s nothing much we can do to change it.

Depending on the situation, there are individuals who are more forgiving than others, so they’ll always try giving second chances to whomever who has hurt them.

Yes, maybe once or twice is okay, but once they stop caring about us and our problems, not only will we lose them, but we’ll feel lonelier than before.

How it Affects the People Around You:

People get stressed out when we release our frustrations on them, or around them.

We may even put the people we care about in a situation where they’ll have to choose whether they want to put up with anymore of our crap, or just leave and hope that we’ll learn from the experience.

Chances are we’ll wake up and pick ourselves up from our downfall, or we’ll just develop resentment against them and be hateful about them leaving us. When that happens, both parties lose something from the argument: the friendship.

Dwelling in the Past Will Make Your Current and Past Problems Get All Mixed Up

When you allow the past to haunt you, you bring your past problems into your present life. That means you’re only building problems rather than getting rid of them.

The human mind does its best when it’s focused on one thing at a time. However, when you’re focused on both your past and current problems, your current situation is forced to pay the toll.

With all these past problems adding on to your current problems, your stress level becomes higher, leading you to frustration, or worse, depression.

Of course, due to reckless or bad habits in the past, some things can come back to haunt you; things that you have no control of in the present.

sad pug

However, if you’re willing to reflect upon the reasons why all of these things are happening to you right now, and find ways to overcome the problems positively, things will most likely not deteriorate.

You’ll be surprised to know many of our problems aren’t as tough to overcome as we think they are.

However, it’s important to also realise that not all current problems are caused by past mistakes. Your past shouldn’t affect your current life, unless you allow it to.

Rather than treating bad memories as the oil to the fire inside of you, why not use them as teachers? That way you won’t repeat the same mistakes again and you’ll be able to make better judgments next time.

To focus on solutions to your problems, first you need to prevent yourself from dwelling in the past.

How it Affects the People Around You:

People will eventually realise how bitter you are about the past.Even though they may not mind at first, eventually they will, because nobody has time for that.

As I’ve mentioned earlier, when you dwell in the past, you bring the past into the present including people who are in your present. And because you think you’re still hurt by the past, you have the tendency to relate the pain with other people’s faults and flaws whenever they intentionally or unintentionally hurt you.

This is a form of insecurity and too much of it can lead to distrust and suspicions towards other people, even when the reasons are not related.

Due to this, you may also find it hard to establish quality relationships with the people who wish to start something new with you in the future.

You’ll Always Feel a Burden in Your Chest if You Keep Dwelling in the Past

Forgiveness is possibly the one thing that many of us find hard to master, simply because it’s not always the easiest to do. Even individuals who consider themselves pious aren’t always able to master the art of letting go.

Resentment and bitterness are two of our greatest enemies, but always remember that light can’t shine without darkness.

Disappointed woman

Forgiving others doesn’t mean you forget about the things they’ve done to you. Use the experiences as valuable lessons to help you grow and make better judgments in the long run. Learn from other people’s mistakes and help them to learn from their mistakes, too.

Not everyone is willing to accept defeat even when they know that they’re wrong. Maybe they’ll never learn from their mistakes; but even if they don’t, that’s okay!

We have no power to make them do that because they’re the only ones who can do that for themselves. What we can do for ourselves instead is give ourselves the peace we need, and that’s something we can find through forgiveness.

Easier said than done, but once we’ve learned the importance of forgiving others, we’ll also learn how to move on, hence understanding others and ourselves better.

Once we find that peace our heart is looking for, we’ll feel less burden in our chest. Such a great relief will not only make us feel happier, but it’ll also set ourselves free from whatever is holding us back. Nothing is better than freedom!

How it Affects the People Around You:

If we feel stressed out, we’ll likely want to be alone, away from others.

You want to spend time on self-reflection? That’s alright. Do it. If you need to talk to someone, there are always people who won’t mind listening to you, including counsellors.

However, if we choose not to talk about it at all and avoid people (even those who wish to help), we’re not helping ourselves.

Our condition will only worsen. The people around us, be it at work, school, etc. will be able to notice that we’ve suddenly changed.

At work, we might end up being not as productive as we used to be, thus affecting the workflow of our fellow colleagues. Our bosses, who may or may not understand our condition, may or may not judge us for our well-being. The rest might attempt to help us, and whether or not we want their help, we might even end up saying things we don’t mean and hurt them.

Dwelling in the past means that we’re collecting bad memories in a place where our heart and mind has limited space. Therefore, it’s always best to purge them, for they’re just clutter that are weighing us down.

As Sri Chinmoy said, “Judge nothing, you will be happy. Forgive everything, you will be happier. Love everything, you will be happiest.”

The Walking Writer

An ENTP who’s always thirsty for new adventures. Apart from music and writing, I’m also passionate about travel, art and entrepreneurship.