“ Everyone’s got a past. But the past does not equal the future – unless you live there.”
– Anthony Robbins
We all have past mistakes that we would rather not rehash. Yet for many of us, the past acts as an anchor that weighs us down – often leaving us feeling stuck and powerless. Whatever has happened in our past, no matter how painful, humiliating or frustrating the experience may be, know that the only way that we can move forward and work towards creating our best life is to make peace with the past.
With that, here are 3 powerful ways to release all the past hurt, disappointments and pain in order to make room for more joy and happiness in your life.
1. Accept and Acknowledge the Past
I believe that one of the main reasons why the past seem to haunt us is because in some level, whether it is done consciously or not, we are in denial of our past. We secretly hoped that if we do not acknowledge our past, then it never actually happened. That way we don’t have to deal with the pain, the hurt, the disappointment and so forth that comes with the memory. Ironically, denying the existence of our past, actually cause us more pain than the peace and relief that we so desperately crave.
As Pema Chödrön, a renowned spiritual teacher, said “Nothing ever goes away until it teaches us what need to know“. When we constantly try to distance ourselves from our past, we deprive ourselves from learning the valuable lessons that our past experience came to teach us. No matter how hard we try to escape our past, until we come to acknowledge it and learn from it, we are likely to encounter similar experiences in our present and future.
Choose to own your story and shed a much-needed light on your past. No matter how painful and dark you believe the past has been choose to appreciate it because without it, you would not have become the strong individual you are today.
2. Stop Playing the Blame Game
Admittedly, I’ve been guilty of playing the blame game when things don’t exactly go as I had anticipated. In the past, there were moments where I would quickly point the fingers to others and/or external factors as soon as things go wrong. As far as I’m concerned, I was the victim and it was always everyone else’s and anything else’s fault but mine.
In order to create our best life, we must learn to let go of stories where we cast ourselves in the role of “poor me”. While I am in no way dismissing our past pains and sorrows, we can not expect to grow and progress towards our best selves by dwelling on the past and blaming others for treating us badly. As a full fledge adult, all the blame we have put on our parents, teachers etc. when we were children – for example – are no longer valid. If you desire a better way of living and to create a better life for yourself, stop blaming others and external circumstances for things that have gone awry.
However painful it may seem at first to admit that we are entirely responsible for our lives – including our past, it could just be the very thing that will finally set us free.
3. Forgive Others and, more importantly,Yourself
Actress, Carrie Fisher had so wittily said ” Holding on to anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die“. As her quote suggests, by holding on to anger, resentment and grudges we have for those who had wronged us, we are actually causing more harm to ourselves than the person we wish to seek revenge on.
The reason why it is so difficult for some of us to forgive others is because we mistakenly equate forgiveness to saying “what you did is OK” when in fact forgiveness is more aligned to “ I don’t agree with what you’ve done, but I’m willing to let it go“. It’s crucial to remember that forgiving others is not the same as creating justifications for the harmful actions others have done to you. Rather, forgiveness is a gift you give to yourself as it is a vital part of the healing process. Remember that you do not forgive someone so they can feel better. You forgive someone so YOU can feel better.
Last not but least, in order to truly make peace with the past, we must learn to wholeheartedly forgive ourselves. Understand that taking responsibility for our past does not mean that we should dwell on our mistakes and eternally beat ourselves up over it. There is nothing we can do now to change past. No matter how catastrophic and shameful our past may seem, we can always make the conscious decision to find valuable life lessons to be learned from it and create ourselves a better and brighter future. As the great Maya Angelou said “when we know better, we do better”.