A new year is a new opportunity, a fresh start to make your life what you want it to be. But for some people, they just can’t seem to take an essential step that allows them this new progress – letting go of the past. Sometimes being able to move on seems impossible. If you find yourself frequently recalling the past in every conversation, or using bad experiences that have happened in your life to justify behavior in the here and now that you know isn’t right, or is limiting you, then you will know that you need to gain the courage and strength to release the hold these past events have that is impacting you right now.
Realizing that holding on to the past has become an issue for you is the first step on a journey to far greater emotional freedom. If you cling too tightly to the past, you simply aren’t letting yourself commit fully to moving forward – all your energy is going on maintaining something emotionally that just isn’t a reality anymore. What you’re holding on to can be positive or negative. Accidents, relationship break-ups, life changes, falling in love – anything that has produced an extremely high or low can become something you’re inadvertently clinging to. In this situation, the past comes to overshadow the present, and that means that you are putting limits on your own openness to experience new situations and emotional states.
A common occurrence would be nursing an old emotional hurt from the past. It may be a situation of heartbreak or even something like medical malpractice concerns. Either way, something has frightened or upset you, and you can’t seem to move past it. This fear and loss of confidence begin affecting your daily life as it stops you from doing something – be it saying yes to that offer of a date, or putting off further medical treatment that you know you need. It becomes a kind of obsession, as it’s always there, affecting your behavior.
Why do we hold onto events in the past, even when we realize that it’s limiting us and sapping our energy? Well, at a subconscious level, many of us ultimately believe that by holding onto things from the past, we are protecting ourselves against future pain. After all, if we keep what happened at the forefront of our minds, it can’t happen again, can it? We will have a say in our destinies if we keep revisiting the lesson from before, won’t we?
But if we doom ourselves to keep repeating the old patterns of life, just because they have become our comfort zone, then we aren’t opening our hearts and minds to the possibility of change, and that is what is essential to keep us truly alive. Similarly, someplace limits on new experiences by declaring the best to be already behind them. They have eaten the best meal, had the best relationship, felt the best they ever will – and with that behind them, what’s the point in even trying for anything new? In this way, you can end up making the past the sole source of all future creation, which is an incredibly lonely and limiting position.
In these situations, it’s hugely important to be able to acknowledge what you’re doing to yourself. Commit to a decision that you won’t let yourself live so much in the past and aim to be more present – tools such as mindfulness apps can really help you to develop this ability. It may take a bit of emotional heavy-lifting, but the payoff is huge – being able to create the life you’ve dreamed of having. Ask yourself what could be possible that you haven’t even considered when you were too busy holding yourself back?
Reprogram Your Thinking
Have you ever heard the phrase ‘You have to fake it til you make it’? Well, that can be hugely pertinent in a situation where you are trying to regain forward momentum in your life and move past old hurts. Perhaps you just don’t feel confident, or truly happy. That is perfectly okay. However, in order to move on, you’re going to need to adjust your inner dialogue. You know, that voice in your head telling you that you aren’t enough. That you can’t do it. That you’re bound to fail and get hurt again. Unless you manage to change that voice, you’re never going to make enough progress to truly change your situation. So the first and most important task is to reprogramme those thoughts. You can do this with a simple tool – a mantra. A mantra is a phrase or a group of phrases, which sum up a positive self-belief. Sometimes it can be the direct opposite phrase to the one which pops up in your head. Started training for your first half marathon and just hearing ‘I can’t do this!’ in your head? Try simply flipping it to ‘I can do this! I can do anything I want!’. At first, repeating your mantra back to yourself is bound to feel a little foreign and inauthentic – you don’t believe it yet. But the more you say it, the more you are retraining your brain. Studies show that if you repeat something often enough, the brain comes to accept it as a fact. You can literally construct your reality – all by reprogramming your mind with a simple phrase. Be it ‘I am worthy of finding love again’ or ‘My business is destined to succeed.’ It’s a small but powerful trick which can have a huge effect on releasing you from a prison of your own making.
Create A Distance
Things have a powerful hold over us and a call on our attention when they are close. That goes for both the physical and the emotional space in our lives. When things seem further away, their impact is reduced and we are more able to see past them. That’s why it can be a good idea to start the healing process by creating that space. Either booking a fantastic trip or by exposing ourselves to new locations, ideas and people that will take our minds of what we have been through before. Not having to think about and be constantly reminded of the event that is weighing us down can come as a physical release – suddenly you sleep better, your appetite has returned, and you remember how to smile again. Accessing that same distance emotionally may be harder, but it’s still not impossible. Time is a great healer, and you may find that gradually the burden starts to lift. Or by involving yourself in a new challenge or new scenarios, the brain has some distraction from its own pain. Either way, it can allow the breathing space you really need to process what has happened and move on from it.
Practice Self Care
When you’re hurting, the world can feel like a very lonely place indeed. Sometimes, we need to simply remember to be kind of ourselves and to respect the value of our own emotions. This can be as simple as not dismissing our own feelings or belittling them – Who hasn’t said ‘Oh, you’re just being silly’ to themselves when actually, they were genuinely hurt by the actions of others? Other acts of emotional self-care can include setting boundaries, learning to say no to things, and putting our own emotional needs first occasionally. You should never let yourself feel bad for these things. Self-care can also take the form of doing things that make you feel comforted, as long as they aren’t an excuse for bad habits. Make them positive things – it could be gentle exercise like a Pilates class. It could be a deep bath with aromatherapy oils to help you relax. It could even be making time to go to your favorite cafe and sitting with a coffee and a good book. You’ll already know what works for you to make you unwind, so whatever it is, prioritize doing it. You need to look after yourself in order to recover and gain the energy that moving on requires.
Seek Help From Others
Letting go of the past isn’t one big decision – it’s a series of little ones, played out over time. Little by little you make progress, until one day you realize you’re on the road to recovery. If you don’t seem to be making this progress despite your best efforts, sometimes you need to let someone else in. That could be finding someone you trust and confide in them. It could mean joining a support group and finding others who understand your situation. It could even be seeking out a professional psychotherapist who can give you the tools you need to put the past behind you. Things that are left in the dark tend to fester away, but sharing your feelings with someone else you trust shines a light on them. Fears which seemed enormous and all-encompassing suddenly start to shrink, and together with the other person, you have gained a fresh perspective, a new way to tackle things. So let 2019 be the year that you put that past where it belongs – behind you – and open yourself up to a more fulfilling future. It could be just what you need to hit refresh on your life.