Whether you are a teen or an adult, chances are you have experienced some form of emotional pain in the past. It is something that happens to everyone and part of what makes us human, but this does not mean that we have to continue dwelling on it.
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The past is not something that we can go back and change, yet many people end up spending more time thinking about their past than their future. Although our past experiences can shape who we are, it does not have to define us. However, letting go of the past is not an easy process as it is often easier to cling to a familiar pain than it is to embrace an unknown future. It is not an overnight process, but learning to let go is the only way to move out of the past and into the present as well as the future.
Accept That The Past Is Over
Regrets, anger, guilt, events, people, relationships – there are many things in our past that can cause us pain and make us wish that we could go back and do things differently. However, the first step in learning to let go of the past is to accept that it is over and that there is no way for us to go back and change anything. Dwelling on the past and constantly reliving a bad event keeps it fresh and very real in our minds, when in reality these events might have happened a long time ago.
Accepting that the past is over does not mean accepting that whatever it is that happened to you was okay. It means accepting that it did happen, but that it does not have to continue happening in your mind. Part of accepting that the past is over is also making a conscious decision to let go. Letting go is not something that happens by itself, but instead must be a commitment to stop reliving the pain and to stop constantly thinking of all the details that happened.
Without this commitment it is much harder, if not impossible, to move on from the past. For many this acceptance is the hardest part of letting go, but without it there is no way to leave the past behind. It also helps to look at the past from a different, more positive angle. For example, instead of berating yourself for failures, give yourself credit for getting through them and surviving the ordeal.
Forgive Yourself Or Others
Another important part of letting go is learning to forgive. If what is keeping you in the past is a mistake that you made, you must forgive yourself. If it is the actions of others, you must find it within yourself to forgive them. Forgiving others is not about condoning what they have done or letting them off the hook, but accepting that what is done is done. Often, this is the only way to obtain inner peace instead of dwelling on past emotions that can eat away at you physically and emotionally.
It is easy to get caught up in a cycle of mentally beating up yourself or others, and forgiveness is the only way to let go of this burden. Of course, forgiveness is easier said than done, so if you are not able to do it immediately, don’t add it to your list of things to torture yourself with. Don’t think of forgiveness as something you have to do because it is expected of you, but think of it as an investment in your own happiness and well-being.
Forgiveness comes from within and will allow you to move on from the anger and pain towards a better place. Remember that you have no control over the actions of others, so forgiveness does not mean the other person will change their behavior. You do, however, have the power to control your own actions and thoughts, which is what will help you to move on instead of reliving the hurt from your past. It is only by letting go of the hurt and pain in your past that you are able to open yourself up to happiness in your future.
Remember, by forgiving someone you sever the negative emotional link that is binding you to them and holding you back. Forgiving also does not mean giving a person the right to hurt you again, so don’t feel obligated to waste any more time on them. Above all, don’t put your life on hold for an apology you think you are owed, but will probably never get.
Turn Your Focus towards The Present
After you have accepted that the past is over it is easier to understand that the only place where it is still happening is in your own mind. To move away from the past and towards a happier, more fulfilling future it is important to focus more on your present. Finding the joy in your present is one of the most effective ways to move on from the past, but it is something that requires active commitment from your side. Focusing on the present also forces you to spend less time in the past and getting caught up in the vicious cycle of reliving the negative emotions.
Initially it is easy to slip back into old thought patterns, so acknowledge this, but don’t let it control you. If you find yourself reminded of your past or negative emotions begin to surface again, focus on bringing yourself back to what is happening in the present. Focus on all the valuable lessons you have learned that will allow you to make better decisions in the future and all the wonderful people whom you have in your life.
Focusing on the positive elements of your present also allows you to stop feeling victimized by your past and become more empowered. You will also find that avoiding pitfalls is easier when facing ahead instead of constantly looking behind you towards the past. Meditation can be a great way to anchor yourself in the moment and let go of the past for a set amount of time each day. Use it to clear your mind and focus on your present.
There is no benefit to reliving the events of the past, but by channeling all that energy into things you can change in the present you can improve your well-being. Focus on things in the present that can make a positive impact in your life and take the steps required to get started with these changes. Switching focus from something you cannot change to something you can will make it easier to ultimately let go of the past.
Finally being able to let go is a life-changing experience, but don’t expect it to happen overnight. It requires a mental shift from being the victim to accepting that what is done is done. By breaking this emotional attachment to the past, it is possible to finally take control of your present and work towards a better future.