Laugh at Your Past to Move Forward (Panama-Style)

We all have a painful past. We have all experienced sadness, disappointment, loss, hurt and heartbreak. But it is the way we each decide to interpret and manage these past wounds that differentiates us as individuals. Emotional pain has a tendency to worsen when you replay or relive the painful events that have occurred, and can be absolutely crippling when it impinges on your personal or professional life, influences your mood and constantly occupies your thoughts. Many people struggle with letting go of painful memories and feel powerless against the intense feeling of hurt as a result of their past experiences – but the truth is that dwelling on history solves nothing and gets you nowhere.

Celebrated in Portobelo, Panama, two weeks after Carnaval Biennial, there is a festival, roughly translated as ‘festival of the devils and congos’, aims to embrace the painful past with a light heart in order to turn the tables on history. The Devils and Congos Festival celebrates the black slaves who fled their Spanish colonial masters and escaped into the rainforest. The festival has their descendants (Congos) creating an insurgence and ridiculing the order of the day, as roles are playfully reversed with the so-called slavers travelling the crowd and mocking kidnapping spectators for outrageous ransom sums. The brilliant coloured rags they adorn represent a mockery of the pompous fancy Spanish aristocrats.

In your own life, think about a time in the past where you may have felt trapped, stuck or imprisoned by something or someone, and think of the way in which you freed yourself from your painful situation. Now try seeing the experience from a humorous perspective, in whatever capacity you possibly can. For example, I can remember a time when I went to move into a ‘luxurious apartment’ by the water, only to find out that the lodging was actually a halfway house for recovering drug addicts and criminals with a psychotic landlord / manager who chased me all the way down to the ferry demanding money when I politely declined the accommodation. I was sure he was going to kill me for the $1000 bond and rent money he had his heart set on receiving if I had moved in, but in the end, after some rescuing by two good Samaritans passing by who came to my defence, I was safe again. As traumatising as it was at the time, I now cannot help but chuckle to myself if I happen to drive past that house down by the harbour’s edge, reliving the now ‘hilarious’ encounter in my mind.

Such expressions as these demonstrate how we can humour the pains of our past by reclaiming even its ‘enslaving’ aspects. By adopting a light-hearted perspective, I assure you that it is possible to revisit hardships and past wounds with a smile or a giggle, at the very least.



Miya Yamanouchi is  an empowerment counsellor with specialist sexual health training who has extensive experience assisting men and women across Australia to discover and embrace their authentic selves.  Unconventional, cheeky, and a little audacious at times, Miya Yamanouchi is not your typical health professional. Vivacious counsellor, passionate artist and model, creative social activist, heartfeltauthor, spirited sexual health advocate, pro-BDSM and pro-sex work feminist, unashamed selfie-taker and self-professed “closet child” with a love of all things Disney Princess; who delights in challenging stereotypes and being a paradox. She is also Reference Group member for The Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society, a Blogger for The Kinsey Institute,  A Sex and Relationships Expert at YourTango, and Social Media Content Creator (Instagram) for The Sydney Feminists

This article was originally published at Suite. Reprinted with permission from the author.

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