One of the biggest challenges for people who suffered from abuse, neglect or other traumatic events in their childhood, is to let go of the past. Our minds have this tendency to replay bad memories in our heads over and over again and this creates unnecessary suffering in our lives.
You might feel helpless about it and think: But how can I stop negative thoughts from popping into my head? Well, I would like to present a few methods to you that can support you in your efforts to finally let go of the past.
Cut ties with toxic people
Sometimes your bad childhood is not really over yet because you are still in contact with the people who have hurt you and continue to hurt you. As an adult, you can stop people from abusing you by leaving them. You don’t need to feel any kind of obligation to stay in contact with abusers.
I hear this often from religious people, that you need to „honour your parents“ and therefore can’t leave them. I think this is just a sorry excuse for being a codependent masochist. The bible is a pretty balanced book and in it you can find arguments for both sides.
The Bible also asks mothers to love their children and fathers to not provoke their children to wrath. It’s like a contract. It only works if both parties keep the rules. If one party is not interested in fulfilling their part of the contract it makes it basically void. And parents are clearly the ones who have more obligations here than the child since they were the ones who brought the child into the world.
As a Christian, I’m sick and tired of people falsely interpreting the bible to justify all kinds of craziness, from misogyny to racism to abuse. If your church is teaching you to stay with abusive people than it’s time to find a new one. Click here for more information on how to get rid of toxic people.
Do you own things that constantly remind you of your negative past? A stuffed animal perhaps or toys, jewellery, books, photos or a musical instrument? Perhaps it’s a gift from a person who has once abused you. Get rid of it. Sell it or donate it. Just get it out of your sight.
KonMari, bestselling author of “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” and professional organizer says you should declutter everything from your home that doesn’t add value to your life or, in her words, eliminate everything that “doesn’t spark joy”.
You might find that it’s necessary to relocate in order to be able to let go of the past. Especially if you are confronted with toxic people from the past again and again at the place you are currently living, it might be wise to seek more geographical distance.
In addition, some places just carry bad energy and the only solution is to move. In my former apartment, I was suffering from severe sleeping problems, when I moved into a different apartment, these problems immediately disappeared.
Stop talking about the past
If you find yourself constantly talking about your bad childhood outside of a therapeutic setting, it might be a good idea to entirely stop talking about it, because the more you talk about it the more memories will come up, and your brain is basically being told to strengthen the neural pathways to these unwanted memories. If you want these pathways to become weaker and get deleted over time, you need to stop reliving the past by mentioning it again and again.
Accept the past
In the self-help world, a lot of people talk about forgiveness. That you should forgive those who did you wrong and that this would be somehow healing. The problem is that many people aren’t ready yet to forgive and feel in their heart that it’s even unjust to forgive those who have hurt them.
I believe before we even think about forgiveness, we shouldn’t skip the step which comes before, which is acceptance. It’s necessary that we accept what has happened in the past and stop asking questions like”What if?”, “How could I have prevented it?”, “Was it partly my fault?”, “Why didn’t my parents love me?”.
What has happened happened and there is no way for any of us to travel back into the past and undo what went wrong. All the analyzing in the world won’t change that fact. We need to stop trying to control something that is no longer controllable because it’s not even part of reality anymore.
If you accept that the past has ceased to exist and that you have no power to change it in retrospect, this will lift a huge weight from your shoulders and give you some peace. There is no need to constantly think about something that you have no power to change or control anyway.
Make an effort to be present in your life. That means when you are cleaning your flat your mind is focused on the cleaning process instead of drifting into the past. It’s also important to create a life that you actually want to be present in. Do plenty of things that feel real and alive, like excursions, sportive activities or meeting friends.
Make plans for the future
A good way to keep yourself from constantly thinking about the past is to make plans for the future. How do you want your life to be and which action steps do you need to take to come closer to this goal? You can actually use your past to create positive goals for yourself.
Let’s say you grew up in a situation of domestic violence. You could make a commitment to practice non-violence in speech and deed. You could attend communication courses or anger management classes to get a better understanding of how to practice non-violence and make a vow to yourself to break the generational cycle of violence in your family.
Or your parents were very negative, pessimistic people who constantly criticised you and made you feel inadequate. Think about the way you would have wanted your parents to make you feel instead and try to create these desired feelings for yourself in your day to day life.
You might have wanted to feel loved and accepted. How can you experience more love and acceptance in your current life? Perhaps you could become a part of a specific group that has a reputation for being loving and accepting. Or you could look for a partner who makes you feel loved and accepted. Best of all, you could start loving and accepting yourself!
Not being able to let go of the past has the potential to destroy you. It will at least keep you from moving on and reaching progress in your life. Imagine a future where you can savour life to the fullest without the baggage from your childhood!
As a first step to let go of the past I would suggest you think about the people you surround yourself with and get rid of those who you know are harmful to your mental or even physical well-being.
I have a few affirmations that you can speak to yourself daily, that will help you to get into the right mindset:
- I’m able to accept past experiences.
- I’m in the process of breaking free from my past.
- I’m ready to let go and move forward.
Question: Did you ever struggle with letting go of the past? Do you have any tips to overcome it? Please tell me in the comments!
Until next time,
[Photo by Ryan Moreno on Unsplash.com]