The past has a strong hold over many of us and yet at the same time we long to be free of it. Each time we relive the past in our thoughts we keep it alive even though it’s extremely painful. It might be a recent communication from an ex that reminds us of the power they once had over us. It might be the knowledge that we behaved badly, we said something to someone we later regretted. It might be that a once dear friend hurt us deeply and we just can’t move forward from it.
Here’s the thing — whatever happened is in the past. It can’t be changed. It’s over. That’s the logical bit.
There is absolutely nothing that can be done to change what happened in the past except one thing — forgiveness. Yes, it’s a monumental ask. I know that. However, forgiveness does bring us peace. If we can forgive ourselves for something we did in the past we give ourselves the chance to let go and focus on our lives in the present. It frees us from the hold the past has over us.
Forgiving someone else for a past hurt is harder and more complicated. By forgiving them we’re not saying that what they did was okay or that we’re accepting their behavior. However, forgiving allows us to concentrate on our present living. Forgiveness frees us from the hold that they have over us. Living with these toxic thoughts poisons our health, our outlook and our future relationships.
If reliving the hurt is painful, then why do we continue to do it? Why do we choose to hang out somewhere so damaging and with thoughts we can’t change? Learn instead to focus on what you can change. Take some time for self-reflection, looking inward to what you can change within your own heart.
Here are some ways for you to let go of the past.
- Do something for someone else, let go of your ego. When we focus on another and truly help them, we allow for growth in our own lives. Instead of thinking what’s in it for me, let go and focus on kindness and compassion towards another. Random acts of kindness is such a powerful place to begin.
- Acknowledge the pain you felt. Yes, it hurt. Yes, you felt ashamed. Acknowledge the emotions that you feel right now. I always suggest with clients to name the emotion they’re feeling whatever that might be — anger, sadness, frustration, confusion. Once it’s out there, rather than doing the constant loop in our heads, we can begin to make sense of it.
- Accept and learn the lesson. Acceptance is the first step towards forgiveness. It’s difficult when we’ve never done it before, and our ego and pride are involved, but now is the time to gently ask them to do the right thing and that’s to allow for acceptance and forgiveness.
- Imagine how different your future could be. What would tomorrow look like if you let go of the past today? It’s beautiful to think that it could be different and knowing that you have the ability to make the changes you need to make in your life to allow this freedom.
- Tune into your self-talk. How are you speaking to yourself? Do you spend your time speaking negatively to yourself? Is this how you’d speak to a friend who was in need of compassion? I doubt it! Yet we continue to badmouth ourselves, and you really don’t deserve that.
- How is staying stuck serving you? Are you getting some sort of kick out of it? Staying in the past, focusing on something you did or another did to you? Don’t be the victim in this any longer. You are so much better than that.
- Make the decision to let it go. The thoughts in our heads are of our own making. We can choose to let them go and sometimes it’s as simple as that. Make the commitment to yourself, and write it all down if that helps to move it on. Work with a coach to guide you forwards. You have a choice, and no one but you is keeping you trapped in the past.
- Live in the now and look for the joy in the present moment. The sun shining, a good cup of coffee, a conversation, a kind gesture from a stranger. Begin a gratitude journal either in writing or take a daily photograph that reminds you of the glory around us.
Let me know how you get on.
This blog first appeared on The Huffington Post