We all want to find love, acceptance, security, meaning, connection, and an understanding in our relationships that we can trust. For most of my adult life, letting go of the past was impossible. I carried around so much emotional weight that had robbed me of the ability to live in anything but the shame and pain of a past that I could not stop rehashing.
The result? Stagnation. I could never evolve because I held onto grudges, memories, details, moments, words, pain, and experiences from my past that had reduced the present moment into what felt like a never-ending prison sentence. And because I had no compassion for myself, I only had compassion for toxic people – whose egoic survival depended on exploiting my compassion to the point of me wanting to be their personal doormat. At least it was better than being alone.
I hated who I had become. I hated that I was too nice to everyone but myself.
What I learned the hard way:
Until you let go of the past, you will never be able to fully love and trust (yourself and others). You will also, never be truly loved and trusted the way that you want and deserve to be.
And because we ultimately attract relationships that reflect the one we have with ourselves…
You will become a toxicity magnet.
If you keep allowing the heaviness of your past to weigh down the bar that you’ve set for yourself, you will never be able to attract anything that is remotely higher from the how low that bar has become.
For years, I engaged in a pattern of gravitating toward “project” lovers and friends that I had to be “good enough” for so that they’d choose me, change for me, and I could be the exception to their rule (and in turn, invalidate the pain from my past that was weighing me down).
Why I stayed in this wash-rinse-repeat cycle for so long:
My low self-esteem, society, school, friends, family, etc., had me convinced that I just needed to get “stronger,” so that I could better carry the burden of a heavy past. The majority of my life was thus occupied with trying to “build the strength,” to carry the past on my emotional back… as opposed to taking off that way-too-heavy, out of date backpack for good.
That heavy backpack had become my adult pacifier. Yeah, I guess could have gone without it for a minute, but I always had to know that it was within reach.
I couldn’t acknowledge the warrior that the pain of my past had birthed and therefore, never had the courage to let go of it and live my life.
I was more comfortable telling my story to anyone that I thought could rescue me. Because of this, I remained a voluntary prisoner to events that had already come and GONE.
And as much as I didn’t like to be in pain, there was a certain level of comfort that carrying the pain of my past provided. Continuing to subscribe to the pain (and the self-limiting beliefs it bred), soon gave me the one thing I was never able to constructively give myself: an identity.
The past (and my pain/beliefs associated with it), became my identity. And it ultimately detracted everything that I claimed to want and become in life. The more abandoned and alone I felt, the more I would hang onto the past (and a corresponding identity), that did nothing more than and solidify the pain of my embarrassing reality.
When I finally learned how to let go, I started to live an actual life in spite of a painful past. As opposed to one that was sabotaged and plagued by it.
Here are 5 steps to letting go of the past so that you can live your life, trust, and love again…
Acknowledge the payout.
As humans, we will only continue to engage in something (no matter how destructive or negative the impact), if there is a part of us that truly believes there’s a payout which supersedes the impact in some way, shape or form (whether it be logical or illogical). The first step in letting go of the past is to acknowledge that some level of fulfillment is extracted from holding onto it.
I know that for me, I found more comfort in the justification that the past provided for the subpar, lackluster life I was leading than I did in facing my fear of constructing a positive belief system (and acting on those beliefs). I couldn’t take being abandoned, rejected; being made to feel worthless or failing AGAIN, so I gravitated toward the “security” of a past that had not only already checked all of those proverbial boxes, but that defined me as such. So, when I received the blows that life inevitably threw my way, I went right back under the comfort blanket of a painful past. What are you holding onto? What’s the payout? I’m here to tell you that choosing to rehash the past, at the expense of your present life, is the definition of emotional suicide. If letting go of the past is truly your priority, acknowledge the payout and ask yourself if holding on is really worth it.
It can only be given life support and propelled. It can’t be changed.
You cannot change the past. You can only continue to keep it on life support and allow it to poison the present moment by CHOOSING to subscribe to a story that is based on making assumptions and taking what happened personally. I have the honor of talking to people every day who have been through the most horrific spiritual breakage and pain one could ever imagine. This, however, is not the reason that they continue to find themselves in pain. The reason that you can’t escape from the pain of the past is because you make the decision every day, to hit the “I’m-not-good-enough” pipe in the form of subscribing to an identity that you’ve allowed the past to construct.
And because habitual consistency breeds expertise, you soon become an EXPERT time traveler – not only time traveling at any given moment but choosing to give life support to what has (and will always be), behind you: the past; what was. Putting the past on 24/7 life support is EXPENSIVE. The spiritual, emotional, psychological and physical costs are far too great. Make the decision to pull the plug now before it’s too late.
Identifying your identity.
The reason that I took so much comfort in allowing the pain of the past to shape my identity, was because it justified all of the poor decisions I was making in my romantic relationships, friendships, familial relationships and in my personal and professional life (payout!). I loved complaining about how everyone and everything was holding me back when in reality, I was holding me back by deciding to allow a belief system that the past had shaped, to override my free-thinking mind.
The turning point came when I faced, honored and acknowledged my pain instead of allowing it to continue to take on a life of its own. No matter how comfortable I was holding onto my past for dear life, there always remained this little, un-dimmable light of hope that no amount of trauma could ever fully shut off (if there wasn’t that very same light within you, you would not be reading this right now). You CAN let go. You can.
The mere fact that you’re searching for a way to let go of the past means that you eventually WILL – it’s just up to you whether you decide to do it now or down the line (after more invaluable time has been lost).
The greatest propellant of all time.
I used to blame what happened in the past for all of the failure and pain in my present life. Now, I blame my past for the trust, strength, and love that I emanate and attract. I blame my past for the ability to act on red flags instead of investigating them. I no longer need to rehash the past as a way to propel retaliatory action in the present. I’m able to act in the present moment because I’m no longer bogged down.
If I had the perfect childhood, the perfect family, the perfect upbringing, etc., I wouldn’t have had such a burning desire for BETTER. Letting go of the past put a fire under my ass that propelled me into living the kind of life that I never thought I could call my own.
You are so much more than what’s already come and gone.
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