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  • Writer's pictureDeric Hollings

It's In the Past


Photo credit, The Walt Disney Company, fair use


One of The Walt Disney Company (“Disney”) films I most treasure is The Lion King (1994). Unlike most of the nonsense released by Disney within the past decade, there are many invaluable lessons I learned from the movie.


Herein, I’ll discuss one and how it relates to Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT). In a scene during which Rafiki (a mandrill shaman) discusses the past with Simba (a lion protagonist), the wise mandrill describes his perspective on learning from lessons of a difficult past.


For context, Simba ran away from home after his father (Mufasa, the king) was killed by Simba’s uncle (Scar). Simba was next in line of succession though he ran away from his homeland, essentially abdicating the throne.


While away and practicing avoidance and escapism, Scar reined terror over the land. Rafiki sought out Simba in an attempt to convince the prince to step into his rightful role as king. Once Rafiki discovered Simba, the mandrill revealed the prince’s reflection in a body of water.


When invited to “look harder,” Simba discovered Mufasa’s reflection and then had a vision wherein Mufasa instructed his son to remember who he is and advised Simba to take his place as the ruler. The scene then unfolds thusly:


Rafiki: What was that!? The weather! Very peculiar, don’t you think?


Ault Simba: Yeah, looks like the winds are changing.


Rafiki: Ahhh, change is good.


Adult Simba: Yeah, but it’s not easy. I know what I have to do, but going back means I’ll have to face my past. I’ve been running from it for so long.


[Rafiki hits Simba on the head with his stick]


Adult Simba: Ow! Jeez! What was that for?


Rafiki: It doesn't matter. It’s in the past. [laughs]


Adult Simba: Yeah, but it still hurts.


Rafiki: Oh yes, the past can hurt. But from the way I see it, you can either run from it or learn from it. [swings his stick again at Simba, who ducks out of the way]


Rafiki: Ha. You see? So what are you going to do?


Adult Simba: First, I’m gonna take your stick. [Simba snatches Rafiki’s stick and throws it, and Rafiki runs to grab it]


Rafiki: No, no, no, no! Not the stick! Hey! [Simba runs away] Where are you going?


Adult Simba: I’m going back!


Rafiki: Good! Go on! Get out of here! [Rafiki begins laughing and screeching loudly]


The overwhelming majority of clients with whom I’ve ever worked have discussed unresolved issues of the past. While I meet with these individuals in the present, I’m unable to alter the past.


Mourning the loss of a loved one, lamenting a failed romantic relationship, or bemoaning childhood trauma, some people mistakenly believe they can undo history through psychotherapy. Unequivocally, this is an irrational belief.


Regarding this matter, page 22 of The REBT Therapist’s Pocket Companion invites REBT practitioners to assist clients with understanding that the only productive thing to be done about the past is to un-disturb oneself about it while learning lessons which may be applied thereafter.


In Disney’s The Lion King, Simba admitted a true thing when expressing that change isn’t easy. Aside from the unproductive assumption that psychotherapists can somehow revise the past, I find that people also upset themselves with unhelpful beliefs about how change should be easy.


[swinging Rafiki’s stick] Who lied to you by claiming that lasting and effective change should, must, or ought to be easy!? It would be wise to relieve yourself of this irrational belief.


Likewise, practicing unconditional life-acceptance may serve you well. The theory underlying this REBT technique posits that life is fallible, the past is unalterable, and that placing rigid conditions on what has already transpired will likely lead to self-disturbance.


While actions of the past may’ve hurt during the moment in which they occurred, we needlessly suffer in the present when tormenting ourselves with irrational beliefs. Therefore, we can learn from unfortunate events of yesterday so that we hopefully don’t repeat mistakes of old.


However, most matters in this life are beyond our control and influence. As such, we flexibly approach the present and future with learned lessons—and do so without needlessly disturbing ourselves with silly notions about life.


So what will you do about an unpleasant event of yesteryear? It’s in the past! You live in the present. [again swinging Rafiki’s stick]


If you’re looking for a provider who works to help you understand how thinking impacts physical, mental, emotional, and behavioral elements of your life—helping you to sharpen your critical thinking skills, I invite you to reach out today by using the contact widget on my website.


As a psychotherapist, I’m pleased to help people with an assortment of issues ranging from anger (hostility, rage, and aggression) to relational issues, adjustment matters, trauma experience, justice involvement, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, anxiety and depression, and other mood or personality-related matters.


At Hollings Therapy, LLC, serving all of Texas, I aim to treat clients with dignity and respect while offering a multi-lensed approach to the practice of psychotherapy and life coaching. My mission includes: Prioritizing the cognitive and emotive needs of clients, an overall reduction in client suffering, and supporting sustainable growth for the clients I serve. Rather than simply helping you to feel better, I want to help you get better!



Deric Hollings, LPC, LCSW




Dryden, W. and Neenan, M. (2003). The REBT Therapist’s Pocket Companion. Albert Ellis Institute. ISBN 0-917476-26-3. Library of Congress Control Number: 20031044378

Hollings, D. (2022, November 18). Big T, little t. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from

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Oda ALTS. (2019, June 13). The Lion King 1994 remember who you are full scene 4k kok1 [Video]. YouTube. Retrieved from

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