Figure Out What’s Bothering You In the Present
The past has, by its very definition, passed. Realize that, due to the fact that whatever is bothering you over, the only way it can still hurt you is through the emotions it's bringing up in the present. That said, rather than continuing to replay the incident that hurt you in your head, begin to focus on how to deal with the emotions that it’s causing you to feel in the here and now.
Try to pin down why exactly these emotions keep coming up. Is it because you haven’t given yourself permission to feel them and let them go? Or perhaps because you’re afraid that if you allow yourself to move on that you’ll be in danger of being hurt again? Below you’ll find some ways to help yourself identify why you’re still feeling the pain of the past, as well as some helpful tools you can use to begin to work through it.
Allow Yourself To Experience Your Emotions
One of the reasons you may find yourself having problems letting go of the hurt surrounding a past event is that you haven’t given yourself permission to truly experience the emotions it caused. In a world where we’re told to put on a brave face, it can be tempting to shove down our feelings, as if into a box we carry deep inside. The only problem is that not only does that box inevitably start to leak, it can also eventually explode.
If you haven’t really allowed yourself a chance to feel your emotions, set aside some quiet time to do so. As scary as it may seem, allow yourself feel whatever you need to feel, cry if you need to, and begin the process of letting go. Some tools that can help you through this process include things like guided meditation or journaling.
If you’re having trouble letting go of the past on your own, guided meditations are a great way to allow yourself to be lead through the process. Check out some of the great meditations like the ones below which are available for free on YouTube.
Write It Out
Sometimes thoughts keep replaying in our heads simply because they have no other place to go. Rather than allowing them to continue haunting you all day long, set aside a time each day when you let yourself sit down and write out at least three pages of whatever happens to be in your head at the moment.
This can take the form of anything from a letter to the person who hurt you, even if you never intend to send it, to shameless ranting. Whatever’s bothering you, get it out and onto the page. Then resolve to let the thoughts surrounding the past go until the next day, when you can repeat the writing exercise for as many days as you need too. You’ll be amazed at how this simple exercise will begin to release the hold that your emotions have on you over time.
Notice Any Negative Beliefs You Hold About Letting Go
Try to look for any negative beliefs you may be holding onto that are keeping you from letting go of the past. Some common beliefs include ideas like:
- “I’m justified in hanging onto my anger because I was the one who was hurt.”
- “I need an apology in order to move on.”
- “If I move on, it’ll be like agreeing that whatever happen to me was okay.”
- “It’s someone else’s responsibility to heal me.”
- “If I let go, I’ll just open myself up to the same thing happening again.”
Once you identify any of these thoughts that may be lurking in the back of your mind, the next step is to realize that they are false. At the end of the day, the only thing holding onto resentment is actually doing is allowing the person who hurt you to continue to do so. As an old saying goes, “Resentment is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die.” Hanging onto hurt from the past isn’t affecting anyone’s life but your own and purely in a negative way.
Look for the Lesson
Rather than attempting to use the pain of the past like armor against future hurts, decide instead to learn from it. By finding your own part in whatever transpired, you’ll be able to take back your power and prevent similar situations from occurring in the future. Though you couldn’t control the behavior of the person who hurt you, what could you learn from your own part in the situation?
Where you being unreasonable, selfish, or dishonest? If so. perhaps by offering an apology for your own part in the disagreement you’ll be surprised to find the other person willing offer one of their own.
Or perhaps you’ll find that although the other person was mostly at fault, you can still take back your power by learning from your response to the situation. Did you allow their unjust opinion of you influence your opinion of yourself? Where you too quick to trust even though the signs pointed to it being unwarranted? Or are you merely expecting an apology from someone who may not be emotionally mature enough to realize that they owe you one?
Sometimes the best way to let go of being victimized by someone else’s unjust actions is to be grateful that they’ve shown you how it feels to be on the receiving end of such behavior. Though positive role models are generally a lot more fun to deal with, we often learn just as much about the kind of people we want to be from the kind of people we don’t.
Wish The Person Who Hurt You The Best
Though no one has ever really been able to explain why, many self-help books swear that praying for the person who hurt you is one of the fastest ways to free yourself from resentment. Even if you feel that their behavior was completely insane, image how sick they may have been in order to be capable of feeling differently. What must it be like to live inside the head of someone who could do to you what this person has done? The more wronged you feel, the more quickly you may realize that the odds of person who hurt you being genuinely happy are probably pretty slim. Rather than allow their actions to haunt you, try feeling a little empathy for them and wishing them the best.
Know That Forgiving Doesn’t Always Mean Forgetting
Not that it necessarily means an excuse for vengeance either, but forgiving someone is not the same thing as allowing them to continue to hurt you in the future. Know that forgiveness is about your happiness and ability to focus on the future, not about giving someone a free pass for inexcusable behavior. It may be that you need to distance yourself from the person in question, set boundaries, or take some time to allow them to regain your trust. Just know that hanging onto anger is not at all a prerequisite for doing any of these things and does nothing but make you miserable.
Don’t Be Afraid To Ask For Help
While hopefully some of the above suggestions will be able to help you move forward and let go of the past, don’t be afraid to seek out help if you’re afraid that it isn’t something you’ll be able to do alone. Whether it be a friend, a therapist, or a support group, talking to others can go a long way as far as providing you with perspective and support.