When you are hurting and trying to move on in life, you may find yourself unable to. If you care to dig deeper, you would be able to unearth the reason for this. You just can’t let go of the past.
We all know that yesterday is past. And that to live a happy and content life, you need to leave it behind and get on with life.
Even after having this wisdom, why can’t you manage this simple task?
When you continue to live in history, you would be caught in a maze of contemplation, sulking, and fretting about past incidents. Nothing seems to matter to you other than your past mistakes and injustices meted out to you. It hurts.
With your mind caught in this complicated web of hurts and negative thoughts, how can you feel happy, upbeat, and at peace with life?
Have you ever tried to understand why you are unable to let go of someone? Are you aware that holding on to old memories is a conscious choice? Just like the act of letting go.
This article tries to unravel the workings of the mind and lay it out for you why you refuse to leave the bygone days behind and move forward in life. You will also find here how you can learn the art of letting go and start living a fulfilling life.
Why is it so hard to let go of the past and move forward?
Even when you know that you need to get over something, you have trouble accepting the commands of your mind. The more you try, the more frustrated you will feel. Why can’t you force yourself to obey your own commands?
To answer this question, you need to understand the psychology behind the act of letting go. When you let go, you are forced to leave behind some related aspects of the bygone time. However, your past has become an integral part of yourself, playing a major role in who you are today.
This means, by leaving them behind, you are discarding a part of yourself. And, when you do that, there are bound to be repercussions such as a change in your mental makeup and outlook. Then you would no longer be the same person as you were before.
That is a frightening thought. The change and the ensuing uncertainty would be a far cry from the familiar and comfortable world you are used to.
Your natural inertia to change and the ambiguity of what the future holds would make you stay put where you are. You would willingly endure the hazards of living in the bygone days rather than take a chance.
You would require convincing evidence for leaving them behind and accepting the future. Let us see how this can be made possible.
How to let go of the past in 5 steps?
Before you try to overcome your hesitation in letting go of the old memories, you need to understand why you cannot. Some of the common reasons are low self-worth, anger, sadness, depression, or when you are in denial. When “what if” questions pop up in your mind, you need to realize that you are trying hard to rationalize your decision not to let go.
Once you have a better grip of the situation and know the reason behind your refusal to move on in life, it would be easier to find a solution.
Here are some suggestions for you to work with when you find yourself stuck in the old times.
1. Do not suppress your emotions
Allowing yourself to feel the emotions is the key to understanding the reason for your predicament. When you go through an unfavorable situation, you try to ignore and stifle the hurt you experience as a result of it. This can have devastating consequences.
Offer a free outlet for your emotions. Most often, this is all you need to close the book on the traumatic incident and move forward in life.
While letting your emotions have free rein, do take care not to get lost in them. Do not allow emotions to take over your mind and dictate to you. You should always remain in control even when allowing the emotions the freedom to come out in the open.
2. Don’t allow negativity to rule the roost
Allowing emotions to flow out doesn’t imply that you should let the hurtful thoughts occupy your mind. When you let out the emotions, the hurt associated with past incidents would come up.
We all know that negative feelings are unproductive and destructive. However, our minds tend to favor them by default. And as long as they remain suppressed inside you, the negative thoughts would continue to plague your mind and deny you a chance to live a happy life. Unless you deliberately replace them with positive ones, your life will end up in a downward spiral.
Negative thinking, when allowed to linger for long, is bound to lead us to sadness and depression. Depression brings in more negativity. This creates a vicious cycle from which it would be difficult to extricate oneself.
The best way to get the negative feelings out of the system is to express the emotions. To free yourself from the vice grip of negative thoughts, you need to consciously steer your mind away from them and replace them with positive feelings.
3. Use the past as a learning experience
Life brings us a mixed bag of experiences – some good, some bad. There may be periods in our lives when the share of bad ones is more. Don’t allow this to deter you from your life goals.
There is always something to be learned from all experiences – both good and bad. By learning from the experience, it means understanding how the world works, how the people around you behave, and how your mind reacts to that. You can use this as a template for the future.
Be it a bad break-up, a serious health scare, or being fired from a job, there is always some take away from them all. Understand this part of yesterday and add it to your mind’s data center.
Once you are done with the learning, let it go. The old experiences will have no more use for you. If you let them remain, they will end up hurting you.
4. Live in the present
When you do that, you are forced to leave the history behind. Think of life as a beautiful gift and every moment of it needs to be cherished and enjoyed to the utmost.
Living in the moment may not be the natural choice for most people. Our minds are notorious for their tendency to linger in bygone times and make a mess of our lives. However, if you are aware of what is happening in your mind, you would be able to urge it to leave it behind and come to the present.
At times simple prompts may not work. You may have to use more compelling tactics to bring it to the present. Mindfulness meditation and exercises are specifically designed to achieve this.
5. Learn more about yourself
How people respond to the same situation is different. The same person may have diverse reactions at different points in time depending on their state of mind or other circumstances. Use the collected data from past experiences to get a better understanding of how your mind works.
When you can predict your behavior to different stimuli, you can do a better job of living your life. You would be able to steer clear of things that have the potential to cause hurt. And get more involved in activities that bring you happiness.
The “Me-time” is as important as socializing. Plan solo activities to understand yourself better. Be kind to yourself and practice forgiveness and self-love.
Tips for letting go and moving on
You may be having a hard time leaving old times behind, especially if you are stuck there for a long time. If you are unsure how to make it happen or facing resistance in the process, you may find these tips helpful.
Stop thinking of yourself as a victim. Once you get into this mindset, your mind will adamantly hold on to the old memories to replay past hurts and traumas. When your mind hurts with these negative thoughts, you would be seeing the world around you as a dark and bleak place.
Don’t allow yourself to slip into the role of the victim. Instead, think of yourself as the survivor. You went through the trauma but came out victorious.
Stop expecting an apology. You feel that you have been hurt and treated unfairly and it is natural to expect an apology. The problem with this is that the other persons may not see the incident in the same light. This means an apology may not be forthcoming.
Then you would feel more let down and things are bound to take a turn for the worse. Instead, learn to forget and forgive. Easier said than done, right?
When you forget and forgive, do not see it as letting the other person off the hook. Think of it as something you are doing for yourself. Because by holding on to the bygone times, you are torturing yourself and it is your life that is going down the drain.
The best gift you can give yourself is to learn to leave the past behind and live in the present. Your past indeed played a role in who you are today but there is no need to take it any further. Allowing your past to define you can have disastrous outcomes.
Turn your focus to the present. There is no better way to live. Exercising your choice to let in positive thoughts and let go of the hurtful ones can open up possibilities that you never realized existed. Forgiveness can change the world.
Choose to be happy and positive for a fulfilled and successful life.