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By Lauren Thomas, MA, LPC

I recently took my kids to see The Lion King musical at our local performing arts center. The costumes and performances were incredible, and the story of Simba’s journey to become king reminded me of something I say to clients often: your past does not “disqualify” you from a hopeful future. We get to decide whether our wounds, inflicted by others or as consequences of our own choices, move us toward healing or keep us stuck.

One funny exchange from The Lion King is when Simba meets his friends, Timon and Pumbaa, for the first time. Simba had run away from home after his father’s death and wanted a fresh start. Pumbaa tells him: “You know kid, it’s times like this my buddy Timon here says, ‘You got to put your behind in your past.’” Timon responds, “No, no, no…it’s, you got to put your past behind you.” Perhaps painful things have happened in your life, and you wonder how it is possible to move on. Maybe, like Simba, you have tried running and numbing (“Hakuna Matata!”), but something deep inside you knows you were made for more.

If this is you, read on for three lessons we can learn from Simba’s story:

1. You can run, but you can’t hide from your problems.

Simba wrongly took responsibility for something he didn’t do after being manipulated by his cruel uncle. Fearing his new role as king and the perceived judgment of his pride, he rejected his rightful position and set out on his own. The trouble is, we can temporarily experience relief by running and not looking back, but we take ourselves (and our pain) with us. Simba experienced loneliness and sadness, leaving everything he ever knew. Trying to hide his identity as king from his new friends, he lived a charade, pretending to be carefree while carrying the burden of a secret. Circumstances got so bad back in his homeland, that his old friend Nala came looking for him and he eventually had to face the truth.

When we run, inevitably the truth catches up with us. Even if we never talk about what happened in our past, our bodies remember. This can show up in the form of anxiety, depression, or PTSD symptoms. We may avoid vulnerability and true connection with others for fear of being exposed. The short-term benefits of being away from the people or places where we experienced pain do not outweigh the long-term stress we end up carrying.

2. You can numb, but you’re missing out on a full life.

Simba created a new life for himself in the jungle, but it came at a cost (like eating bugs instead of his usual carnivorous diet and losing the protection of his pride and his kingly authority). We can settle for less or cover our pain in a multitude of ways: various addictions; unhealthy relationships to food, people, or work; living from one mountaintop experience to another to avoid the discomfort of facing our insecurities, shame, or fear.

Have you ever wondered what life would be like if fear wasn’t holding you back? Many of us put dreams and goals on hold because we fear failing. Perhaps we’ve made poor decisions in the past and we don’t want to mess up again, or we’ve believed the lies that others have told us, like “you’re not good enough” or “you’ll never make it on your own.” Big and small traumas can also impact our ability to take risks.

No matter your experience, maybe you’ve had the thought, “what if life is about more than just barely getting by?” Your life may be going relatively smoothly in your 9 to 5, but you have nagging thoughts about the relationships, work, art, volunteering, or leisure activities you have always wanted to pursue. What if instead of pushing through anxiety on your own, you get the help you need to correct faulty thinking and heal from the areas of brokenness that hold you back from truly thriving?

3. It’s never too late to become who you were meant to be.

The Lion King has a happy ending with Simba, after years of running, returning home to take his rightful place as king. Likewise, our paths are often not as linear as we would like. There are twists and turns, failures and successes, but it is never too late to heal, grow, and recapture the dreams we once had (or try something completely new!).

I’d encourage you to go on a walk or get out a journal and think through what you really want your life to look like. It could be going back to school, starting a business, making new friends, traveling more, or learning a new skill. Perhaps you want relief from panic attacks, low self-esteem, or depression. Whether you’re a teenager or retired, there is still time to make changes that would promote peace and stability in your life, even if you’ve had a rocky start.


Let Us Help You

If you’re wondering where to begin to heal from your past and move toward a healthier future, our compassionate team at Lime Tree Counseling would love to help you. We will help you identify the values and priorities you want to build your life around and give you tools to overcome the barriers to meeting your goals. We offer in-person counseling at our office in Ambler, PA and online counseling in North Carolina and online counseling in Pennsylvania. Our therapists are trained in EMDR, addictions therapy, and anxiety counseling, to name a few. Please contact us to schedule a free phone consultation or an initial session today.