It’s 2015: Life tips to forget the past and make this your year
If you are still revisiting chapters of your personal history that caused you immense pain, embracing the future can feel like a fantasy
As we celebrate a new year, marking the inevitable march of time, the focus is traditionally firmly on the future and rightly so. Hopes for the New Year, resolutions made, the possibility of dreams being fulfilled and the feeling that you have a chance to write on a fresh page in the journal of life can feel life affirming. But if you are still revisiting chapters of your personal history that caused you immense pain, embracing the future can feel like a fantasy. Instead, your story might keep recapping itself, stuck in an endless loop, repeating the same patterns and always with the same ending.
Though emotional pain is seemingly an inevitable part of the condition for some of us at certain points in our lives, when it’s you that is the one experiencing it, it can feel like you’re the only person that has ever felt like that. It can make you feel detached from the world as if you’re looking at it through a window and while everyone else appears to be getting on with life, yours seems to have ground to a halt as you rewind and press pause on the past.
The reality is there are only two routes to take when you’re trapped in this emotional maze: you can either live your life or you can replay the pain over and over again. Needless to say, only one route leads you out of there, because no matter how much we rail against the hurt and pain of the past, we are powerless to change it. Whatever the source of that pain (in my professional experience I note it usually springs from a dysfunctional relationship, a traumatic experience or loss), blame, anger and sadness leave you feeling powerless to take control over the direction of your life and like a rudderless ship in a sea of storms, you become increasingly battered and brought down by the negativity.
There’s no doubt that letting go of the burden of pain can be immensely challenging, but it’s important to make the decision to try. When it comes down to it we are all responsible for our own happiness and if you invest that responsibility in others before yourself, it can leave you vulnerable.
Making a conscious decision to “let go” immediately begins to restore a sense of command over your own destiny. This process initially involves expressing that pain, acknowledging it happened and accepting that it hurt you. You can’t change that, but you can change how far you let it define your present or your future. It’s for this reason that I ask my clients to write a letter to themselves about what happened to them, letting their feelings tumble out onto the page however they like and then I ask them to burn it. I like to think of this as the symbolic starting point.
From here, the only way to continue to make headway in filing the past away, is to be an active participant in the present. Though it is not always easy, determining to meet new people and experience new things can help you to move away from those old patterns of behavior and re-focus your mind. It may feel forced at first, but persevere, because it will help to rebuild your confidence and may even throw up new opportunities that you hadn’t envisaged.
Once you feel stronger, take the time to reflect upon the story of your life as if you were in the audience. Try to identify repeated patterns of behavior that have negative consequences and objectively assess whether if confronted with the same set of circumstances you could have behaved differently. If the answer is ‘yes’ in some part, accept that portion of responsibility, but don’t blame yourself. Regardless of how awful the experience, it will have provided you with an opportunity to learn something about yourself or others, which you can use to build a stronger more resilient future.
The healing process
The healing process, of course, will not happen overnight, but once you make that conscious decision to put a first foot on the road to recovery, it will gather its own momentum because of the very fact that you have decided to look forward and not back.
And finally, it’s liberating to both give and forgive. Do something to help someone else and the light you create in them by doing so will reflect back on you. Also, forgiving those who have hurt you, though never easy, allows you to understand that the shortcomings were theirs and not yours and that compassion for this makes you the bigger person.
Remember, you don’t have to be the victim in your own story. You can tear it up and start a new one if you dig deep, keep your eyes firmly on the future and hit the play button.