How to Let Go of the Past

In order to grow, you have to let go of the past. The steps in this guide may not be easy, but they will help you let go of pain and embrace the joy in life.

As human beings, we have all been hurt at some time in the past, and many of us have been hurt several times. Our pain is part of what makes us human, and the experiences that cause us pain can affect us in significant ways. We can accept these experiences for what they are, taking the opportunity to learn from them and grow, or we can allow these experiences and the pain they cause to define us in a negative way. No matter what (or who) caused the pain, it can seem to grow into a part of our identity so much that we do not know how to live without it. But if you are ready to move on from this way of living and find new ways to embrace the joy in life, it is always possible to let go of the past, no matter how painful it may seem.

Is It Time to Let Go?

In this article, we are going to go over what it takes to let go of the past and the pain that we are forced to live with because of it. With that being said, some of this is going to seem brutally honest, but you are going to have to take an open, honest view of yourself if you hope to grow. The first thing you have to do before you can let go of the hurtful experiences of the past is decide if you actually want to let go of it. The unfortunate truth is that many people do not let go of the past because they do not truly want to.

There are many reasons why we hold onto pain. Perhaps the pain of your past has become an integral part of your identity and you would not know how to live or act if you were happy. Perhaps you are holding onto past resentments because you will not forgive a person, even though holding on only hurts you. Maybe you are holding onto the trauma of a childhood event that you believe made you into the person you are. It could have been the most painful event of your life, and you cannot imagine anyone being able to deal with it in a healthy fashion.

Another unfortunate truth is, we all believe that the pain we feel is unique and that our situation is more severe than that of others. Because we can only experience our own lives and our own feelings, we believe that the most painful experience of our lives must have been the worst thing that has ever happened to anyone. Even if we do not think this on a conscious, logical level, it is only human to feel this way, and it is not wrong. Whatever the event that you are holding onto, worse things have happened to other people, and only you can decide if it is time to let go.

Changing Your Perspective

Everyone feels pain from the harmful events in our past, but people deal with it differently. While healthy people feel hurt as well, they are able to feel it for a certain amount of time and then move on. There is obviously no set amount of time for how long you should feel pain. It would be nice to have a chart with painful experiences on one side and the appropriate amount of time to be hurt on the other, but there is no such guide. However, the one thing that can be said certainly is that no pain should last forever.

The first key to moving on and letting go of the past is trying to change your perspective. We know that everyone has had painful experiences in their lives, yet we see many of them living healthy, joyous lives. That does not mean that their pain was any less extreme than ours. In fact, their painful experiences could have been even worse, but they have moved on. The fact is, while your feelings are special and they do matter, they really only matter to you. If you can take a step back and change the way you view yourself and the painful event, it is a huge step. Try to look at it from outside of the bubble of painful emotion that may be holding you back from change and growth.

Accept and Forgive

Now comes the really difficult part. But if you have been able to take a more objective perspective on the past, you should be able to understand it more clearly. In order to move past the pain, you need to have a better understanding of the event and understand how the pain of it continues to affect you. Then you have to accept it. This is obviously not easy, and it does not mean you condone anything. It simply means that you accept that the event has already happened, it is in the past, and nothing can be done to change it.
Because the most painful experiences involve other people and our relationships with them, it is now time to accept the actions of the other person and forgive. Again, this is not condoning anything, but forgiveness is acceptance in relationship-form. 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 people (including yourself) and not allow yourself to take on a victim mentality.

If you can take an objective view of the events and people that have caused you pain, it is a giant step towards letting go. You do not have to condone a person’s motives, but you have to realize that holding onto has not effect on them but only hurts you. If you can step away from your feelings and reassess the things that have caused you pain, you will be well on your way towards letting go of the past.

Posted by Jeremiah Boehner