You Listen from Your Past

Our past experiences and future desires drive our listening. During your life, you have special moments when you are present in the now. These occur when you let go of limiting behaviours created as a result of past experiences.

You don’t choose to let go; they happen automatically in the moment.  Special moments don’t last long because conscious or subconscious thoughts connected to your past experiences and future desires bring you back to reality very quickly.

Let’s learn more about this and improve this listening skill.

Examples of in the moment experiences:

  1. You win something, and you stand on a platform to receive a thunderous applause. At first, it feels good. You raise your arms in triumph until you begin to feel uneasy. Some people can think they don’t deserve the acknowledgement or have other negative thoughts and suddenly want the applause to stop. You want to get off the chair. Ecstatic moments of elation always pass. (Try it out or ask people if they have had this experience. You will find this very common.)
  2. You hit a golf ball, and the feeling is fantastic. The result is one of your best and longest shots ever. Do you remember the excitement in the moment of striking the ball? In my experience, people do not but do remember the outcome. They can remember before and after but not the actual moment. These moments are why golfers keep striving for perfection because they want that moment again.
  3. It’s funfair time. At one stall you must get a ring over a square base to win a prize. It’s virtually impossible. You have a go and do it the first time. Believing you can do it again, you keep trying, because you want that feeling of winning back. You then spend a fortune trying to repeat that experience to no avail.

People Chase Past Moments

The world is full of people trying to repeat these magnificent moments. In reality, these moments are in the past. There are plenty more special moments to come, but they will be in the now and not as a result of the past.

Your life experiences have an impact on the decisions you make today. When you increase your understanding of yourself, you can get closer to the future you desire and will create more of those unique now moments. A listening skill worth exploring.

Negative Experiences Hinder Our Progress

I have often heard successful people say how they decided at some point during their life what they wanted to achieve. Most of us have an idea of what we want to be or do in our lives at some point in our childhood. Unfortunately, many of us made decisions from negative experiences that now impact our choices. Decisions that keep us safe and can also get in the way of what we want.

Past experiences direct every action you take. Special moments such as hitting the perfect golf shot; a first loving experience, starting work or having a baby can be amazing experiences. However, you usually can’t remember the feeling of the actual experience in the moment. It is virtually impossible to share what you felt with someone else so that they can appreciate your experience. All the person will get is your present enthusiasm about the experience. You know you had that moment and can remember the outcome, but you cannot explain the feeling of the experience in that moment.

I have heard people say that when they experience these moments, they are in the present and unencumbered by their past and future desires. What they do know is the desire to repeat the experience stored in their memory, either subconsciously or consciously. Therefore ‘listening is living in the past’ because your brain automatically measures everything in the moment against your stored memories of the past.

Memories Dictate Our Current Choices

Special moments occur when you feel safe, and the moment is the moment. Consideration to the past or the consequences at this time don’t exist. You are just in the now.

You build up positive and negative memories during your life, and they dictate how you listen which dictates how you respond to what you heard. They always exist whether subconscious or conscious. You can’t change your experiences or your interpretation of them, but you can learn to choose different responses to the same experience in the present.

Let’s say your brain stored an awful experience when you were growing up. You interpreted the moment in your unique way, tainted by interpretations of other times in your life. The memory/belief stays in your subconscious, and every experience can add to that understanding. Each time you have that same thought or feeling today, you react to it as you would have done when you first had the experience. It blocks you from seeing this moment as it is. You see it as you saw it when you first had the original experience.

You Can Learn to Change Your Reactions – Listening Skills

The brain functions to keep you alive and it feels threatened when it recognises that past feeling or emotion. At that moment you have a choice. You can choose to respond as you usually do, or you can learn to understand what is going on. Achieving this can only happen if you can listen in the moment to your experience now. Which is easier said than done and you can rarely do it on your own. You must be prepared to listen to what others say. Eventually, you can change your responses to specific moments, but you are unlikely to change your initial reaction. Your brain will learn to see this situation as less of a threat. Learning this will enhance your listening skill.

One thing you can do is acknowledge that what people say is right for them and appreciate that they also have past experiences that dictate their listening. When you do this, you can be prepared to help them understand through listening and reflecting their comments. Healthy relationships develop from this understanding.

Remember ‘listening is always living in the past’ and you can increase the ability to create more special moments by being in the present.  It will not be easy and requires effort to learn to let go. A listening skill worth acquiring.

Suggestions to Improve Listening Skills

  1. Practice, practice and practice does make a difference.
  2. Create more situations that make you uncomfortable. The discomfort may never go away, but it will eventually have less impact on your experience during that moment.
  3. Write down issues or circumstances in your own words. Examine them from your point of view, from theirs and try to work out how you could create a different outcome.
  4. Share with friends because everybody faces similar issues.
  5. Use the internet to gather information that might help you see things differently.


It has taken me a long time looking into what drives me and observing how I respond in certain circumstances. I’m still working on this listening skill. I have run lots of workshops on communication and experienced how listening dictates how people react in situations today.

This article has only scraped the surface of something that dominates our world today. It isn’t easy to describe this accurately because humans are so complicated. I have done the best I can at this moment, and almost certainly, like everything else, it will change every time I read it.

Scroll to Top