“We do not heal the past by dwelling there; we heal the past by living fully in the present.” – Marianne Williamson
Letting go of the past can be very hard to do. Complex situations of the past can creep into every nook and cranny of space in our minds, filling every subconscious thought or decision we make. Dr. Judith Sills states, “It is heart-stoppingly easy to get stuck in the darkness of bad memories. They are emotional quicksand and exert a strong downward pull on the psyche.” We often have an urge to go back and right the wrongs, do things differently, say something else – anything to change the outcome of a situation that hurt us badly. These memories can plague us and leave us feeling exhausted. Letting go of the chains of the past means giving freedom to ourselves both in the present and future.
Dr. John Grohol, founder and CEO of Psych Central, has provided several steps for letting go of the past:
- Make the decision to let go. Tiny Buddha, a website aimed at providing mindfulness and meditation-based information and techniques, notes that letting go may mean simply saying “yes” to what is. Shift your focus on what is currently happening now. Accept the feelings that you are feeling; don’t resist them. Stop fighting your past and just let it be. With this, you can begin to focus on where you are at in the present moment.
- Express your pain and your responsibility. What comes with a hurtful event in the past is fear, rage, sadness, and love. Don’t push these feelings away; admit everything to yourself. “I am guilty for this”. “I am upset about this”. “I still have not forgiven them”. These phrases are strong because they involve you accepting how you really feel.
- Stop being the victim and blaming others. Spiritual teacher Deepak Chopra discussed this on Oprah’s website by explaining that self-pity comes with a feeling that others who are older, wiser, and kinder are not there to help you. Change this pattern of thinking by instead exploring ways that you can build your self-esteem through self-confidence, trusting in your choices, taking responsibility for your actions, handling tricky situations, being understood and appreciated, and more.
- Forgive others and yourself. Law professor Toni Bernhard notes that many people feel forgiveness is a sign of weakness, but this is not true. Understanding the pain and suffering that you and the other party had in their part of the situation will help gain more empathy and will help lead you to forgiveness, a crucial part of moving on.
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