Is Your Past Haunting You?
It may not be Halloween, but, there's a certain kind of haunting that many people experience year-round. The kind where we let ourselves be haunted by our past. Can you relate?
Do you feel like you’re constantly looking in life’s rearview mirror and you don’t like what you see?
We all have people, situations, previous actions, or choices that we’ve made, and regretted, that continue to hang around our psyche just like vaporous ghosts in a scary movie.
I’ve caught myself asking, more than once, why I return to painful memories repeatedly that I’d rather forget. I’m sure you have as well.
So, what do we do about it? Few of us enjoy that sinking feeling in the pit of our stomachs that crop up when we start reliving the past.
On the plus side, remembering hard lessons is part of our survival kit. We sometimes need that painful reminder to avoid making the same mistake again.
I have to admit, though, that even when the pain is still present, it doesn’t always keep us from repeating the same pattern, and will continue to until the lesson we’re supposed to learn finally sinks in.
Why We Hang onto the Past
But more often than not hanging onto the past is a choice we’re making, either consciously or unconsciously, in the way we view and react to our world.
If you aren’t happy and you're tired of feeling trapped by the past, then it might finally be time to take the steps you need to break free.
One of the primary reasons that people hold onto their past, even when it’s ugly, is because they don’t want to face taking responsibility for poor choices.
Even when bad things are being done to you by someone else, a person can still make poor choices.
They make excuses for the toxic person that’s hurting or disrespecting them, emotionally or physically, or they refuse to act to remove themselves from further injury for any one of a variety of reasons.
Worse, they blame themselves and shift the responsibility away from the toxic person, or group, instead of holding them accountable and creating protective safety boundaries.
Release and Responsibility
Releasing yourself from what haunts you in your past requires direct action. Facing it head-on with open and honest eyes is the only way.
So is taking responsibility for your part in it. Few situations are completely one-sided.
There’s always some level of participation occurring by both parties, even if it just comes down to making the choice of engaging with the other person, or people, that are creating the pain.
It’s essential, then to acknowledge and be honest with yourself that, no matter how painful it is to admit, you could be part of the problem.
My research on this topic came up with six ways you can start to release yourself from your past.
Six Ways to Say Bye-Bye to the Past
1. Learn from the past, but don’t dwell there.
The point of living life is to learn, experience, and grow in the process.
But, often people stay stuck in their history because they won’t allow themselves, or don’t know how to release it.
As twisted as it sounds, there’s something that keeps them holding on. They may derive some benefit from the relationship or experience, even if that "benefit" isn't fun or enjoyable.
Maybe that’s the attention they get or, on the darker side, they feel they can manipulate someone by holding the past against them in some way.
Even for those who are suffering from severe abuse, the benefit might be staying to retain their source of food and shelter because they don't know where else to find them.
It can even be as simple as being afraid that there might be something around the corner that’s even worse than what they’re already experiencing or, as I’ve mentioned in previous segments, it’s the “Devil They Know”.
They don’t like the way they live, but they don’t have the energy or conviction to change it.
2. Don’t hold your emotions inside.
People who hold intense emotions and pain internally create increasing levels of stress that build upon themselves to create even more high-risk physical and emotional health issues.
So, it’s imperative that individuals release that tension by talking about it with someone they trust.
Just the act of talking about it defuses the power that emotional pain has on us. Can't afford professional counseling? Look for free support group meetings that address the issue that's keeping you locked in the past.
3. Take responsibility.
This is a tough one for people, especially if they’re suffering from an actively abusive relationship. But, the responsibility I’m talking about isn’t about saying it’s all your fault.
The responsibility I’m talking about is acknowledging you’re in an unhealthy place and that, as impossible as it might seem, you do have a choice to remove yourself from that space or person. That choice might be scary, painful, or take enormous strength and effort, but it's still a choice.
Taking responsibility also means honoring yourself and knowing that you’re worthy of being happy, then having the courage to start taking the steps to get you there.
Simply put, responsibility is truth. Facing it, accepting it, and being willing to change, based on it.
4. Disconnect from unhealthy people or environments.
Sometimes you can only see the truth when you remove yourself from people or environments that are toxic.
Part of releasing yourself from being haunted by an unhealthy past is understanding that positive change can’t come when you surround yourself with people who are invested in you staying unhealthy and unhappy.
The biggest fear here? That you won’t find new “friends”. But trust me. Once you believe in yourself, your new tribe will find you.
When we’re angry, hurt, and looking for vindication, the last thing on our minds is forgiveness. But, part of releasing the past requires forgiving whatever source created your unhappiness because it releases the hold they have on your ability to move forward.
This does not mean that whatever they did to you is ok. It’s not. But by forgiving them, and yourself, you’re cutting the cord from that part of your past that’s keeping you tied to their energy and actions.
6. Create better memories.
The singular best way to move forward is to create new memories through happier and healthier experiences with people who support and encourage you.
Slowly, over time, your darker memories will fade into the past because darkness can’t survive when you’re focused on surrounding yourself with love and happiness in the present.
Your past doesn’t need to haunt you for one more day! You have what it takes to change the next chapter of your life. How do you want that story to read?
So, until next time, my friend, as I always say….stay safe, stay healthy and stay strong!
Need some help with facing past choices? Set up a free 20-minute coaching consultation with me to see if I can help! Click here to schedule.