4 Ways to Let Go of the Past

Letting go of the past is always easier said than done. However, here are a few simple steps that may be able to help the process.

If you are a human being, you have been hurt at some time– or several times– in the past. Suffering is an unfortunate aspect of the human condition, and painful experiences are something we all must go through. For healthy people, these events are learning experiences and opportunities for growth. This does not mean that they do not feel the pain; they feel it for an appropriate amount of time before taking whatever positive that they can from the process.

For many of us, that is not as easy as some people make it seem. Our painful experiences often seem so overwhelming that it is impossible to accept the concept of letting go. We cling to the feelings for various reasons. Perhaps we truly believe this hurt to be something that cannot be forgiven, or it the pain is so intense that we cannot imagine ever bouncing back from the event. These emotions are commonly felt during the actual hurt and in the period shortly afterward, and they are completely normal.

However, many of us cling to the painful experiences and hurtful events of our past far longer than what is actually necessary and healthy. It could be an ended relationship that was a large part of your identity. It could be a betrayal that causes you to feel unable to trust anyone again. It could be a traumatic life event from childhood that has helped to mold you into the person who you are. While many of these things cause a severe level of pain– it could even be the most painful event you have ever, or will ever, experience– they still do not have to define you. No matter how egregious a transgression or hurtful an event, a level of pain is acceptable for a certain amount of time, but then it is time to move on. The amount of time spent in the pain could correlate directly to the seriousness of the hurt, but this does not even have to be the case.

While painful experiences could have been caused by any number of sources or scenarios, the vast majority of them are created within our relationships with other people. These are not only the most common types of hurt, they are also the most painful. That is why a large portion of this article will be dedicated to how to deal with the hurt caused by the betrayal, abuse, abandonment or dishonesty of others when associated with your own pain.

That does not mean that we will teach you the craftiest ways of getting even with those who have wronged you; it simply means we will focus specifically on how you can overcome the pain caused by others. After all, this whole thing is about you and what you decide you want from your future. If you are reading this article, it is likely that you have decided enough is enough and it is time to let go of the hurt before it consumes you. With all that being said, here are four ways to let go of the past.

1. Understand and Accept

In order to let go of the lingering pain from past events, it is important to understand the event and the hurt that it caused. This does not mean that you have to fully empathize with the person who harmed you or be able to understand his or her motivations for doing so. It means you need to understand yourself and how the hurt affected– and continues to affect– you. Once you understand this, it is time to accept the past. This also does not mean you excuse the actions of the person or condone what happened; you just accept that it is in the past and nothing can undo it now.

2. Change Your Perspective

Everybody hurts. Aside from being a great song, that phrase also contains a universal truth that is so often overlooked. You see other people living happy, healthy lives, but they have definitely been through traumatic pain as well. In fact, their painful event could have been even worse. Yes, you are special and your feelings matter, but they only significantly matter to you. Try to take an outside perspective and understand your past from outside the bubble of painful emotion that could be holding you back from logical change.

3. Accept Your Responsibility and Forgive

No matter what the other person may have done to harm you, you still have a role in your own life. In order to let go the past, it is crucial to stop blaming others and to not allow yourself to take on a victim mentality. The program of Alcoholics Anonymous have a great process for this in their eighth and ninth steps that helps to change a formerly hopeless case into a wonderful, happy member of society.

4. Be Realistic and Embrace Joy

This means knowing that the process of letting go of the past will not be easy or happen overnight. All of these steps are easy to say, but they are rarely easy to perform. Take your time with this, and remember that the entire point is helping yourself let go of the past so you can live a happier future.

Posted by Jeremiah Boehner