The past is an important part of who we are. Our early upbringing, childhood memories, school experiences, first sexual encounters, relationships, and key decisions shape our present selves. Do you ever feel as if there are aspects of your past that are holding you back to being fully present?
Perhaps you experience ruminating thoughts about past negative experiences and feelings connected to these. There may be feelings of anger and resentment, as well as overall feelings of anxiety that come with questioning yourself and your narrative. While it is common to experience moments of rumination, frequent causes related to past events include failed relationships and traumatic events. Negative, limiting beliefs can keep one stuck in an unhealthy mindset that prevents forward movement. These thoughts may be formed as core-beliefs, developed as a result of stressful or traumatic experiences. These are learned beliefs and can be difficult to change; however, they tend to respond well to cognitive-behavioral therapy techniques.
If you are ready to release yourself from your past, check these out:
Four Ways to Release the Past from the Present
- Acknowledge & Acceptance
Acknowledging that it is time to let go is an important first step. Acknowledge the difficult emotions that you are experiencing. Name them. Don’t be afraid to sit with them, to allow yourself to move through a painful experience rather than becoming stuck.
Acceptance-and-commitment-therapy (ACT) interventions can help one learn to listen to their self-talk and decide if there is an immediate action step or if acceptance would be the most appropriate option. Acceptance does not mean that one agrees with the event (e.g. getting fired, experiencing a break up) but allows one to accept what has already happened and move through strong difficult emotions, rather than fighting against them. ACT skills such as mindfulness can be powerful interventions that may be utilized as one is learning to “let go”.
- Talking to a Therapist
Work through difficult negative emotions and limiting beliefs by facing them “head on” in the safety of the therapeutic space. A therapist is a skilled professional who will be able to guide you through the process of identifying and naming your emotions, identifying core beliefs, and working with cognitive-distortions. Therapy is a place where you can share your experiences—a place to feel listened to heard, and understood. A therapist can help you set boundaries for yourself and learn skills to communicate these. They can also help process a stressful or traumatic narrative. Although therapy may bring some discomfort, it will ultimately provide relief and freedom.
Being able to forgive yourself and others can be an incredible act of letting-go. In the case of a regretful decision, practice loving yourself unconditionally. Accept what has already happened and forgive yourself to move on. Spirituality can be incorporated. Try relinquishing control by releasing this to God, nature, or a higher power. Consider joining a support group to connect with others. Symbolic acts such as visiting a particular place, writing a letter, or creating an art piece can also help with the healing process.
- Living Authentically
What would it feel like to accept and release the past to be fully present? Imagine your best life—one that is in alignment with your personal beliefs and values, no longer weighed down by heavy emotions such as depression and anxiety. Enjoy living in the present moment with this new sense of freedom.
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Written By: Charlotte Johnson, MA, LPCC
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