Letting Go of the Past: Five Helpful Strategies

    Spending the day remembering what happened in the past is not the best option to continue with our lives

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    The past is something that accompanies us throughout our lives. Where we come from acts as a foundation for shaping who we are, how we act, and how we think about the world around us.

    It influences not only our perspective on life, but many more things that right now we do not even imagine, such as the sensations and emotions that we have before something or someone that we do not know and about which we have no information.

    All people will be able to remember good and bad moments in their life trajectory. However, there are people who seem to have an incredible facility to spend all day reliving their past. Spending the day remembering what happened in the past (whether it is bad or good) is not exactly the best option to continue with our lives, quite the opposite. It keeps us static, it prevents us from mobilizing our energy to carry out new projects or, simply, to enjoy the day we find ourselves.

    The problem arises when our past does not allow us to move forward with our life. The memories about what was or was not come back to our heads over and over again, interfering with the current moment in which we find ourselves, preventing us from enjoying the moment we live.

    Letting go of the past is forgiving

    It is at this point when we must become aware that the past is over (worth the redundancy) and that it is in the present where we find ourselves. Remember that terrible thing that happened to us, how bad they behaved with us, etc. brings back to our head those emotions of discomfort, guilt, shame, resentment … that hurt us again and again, nothing productive, right?

    These people who focus too much on the past, run the risk of falling into great sadness or depression, prey to their misfortunes and immobile before a not promising present-future, since this can lead us to think that our life is destined to misery.

    It is important to know that to overcome the past, we must first assume that it will not change, that we must accept things as they were and let it be. It’s easy to say, yes, but turning the page is essential.

    To do this, some of the things we should try to do are:

    1. Look up at the world around you.

    Stop and think about how much time a day you spend thinking about your problems. If you think it is too much, it is possible that you are very focused on yourself and, therefore, forgetting the world around you. Seneca said “there are more things that scare us than things that really hurt us, and we suffer more in imagination than in reality.”

    Does this apply to your life? If so, reflect on it because you may be making your neurons work against you. Looking up from your belly button to look at where you are and the people around you can be a good first step to move forward.

    2. Forget those who hurt you.

    As has already been said, living remembering what made us suffer so much prevents those wounds from closing. And, let it be clear, holding resentment towards that person (and even showing it openly) many times is not going to make the other feel worse, but rather that we are the ones who are most anchored in what happened.

    We get stuck thinking about what we could say or do to make him “pay” for what he did to us and, in this way, we continue to frustrate ourselves and relive our pain with those memories. We must assume that we are the ones who hurt ourselves the most by not removing from our minds those people who have misbehaved towards us.

    3. Forgive yourself.

    Understand that the things we did wrong can no longer be undone. Instead of blaming ourselves for having acted in one way and not another, it would be more productive to find out why we did that. What were the wishes, motivations or fears that led us to do things that way?

    Surely, if we look back, we will find that the reasons why at that time we chose that option were the ones that seemed to us to best solve our problems at that time. Now we can only try to learn from it, get to know ourselves so as not to make the same mistakes again and, of course, improve… There is a proverb that says “mistakes are opportunities to grow as a person”. Apply it in your life.

    4. Find meaning in your life.

    Having objectives and goals in life allows us to face bad times. Knowing that there is something worth pursuing gives us encouragement to endure adversity since we know that when they are over, we will be able to do what we yearn for.

    If you don’t have any wishes or goals in sight right now, you may be leaving many possible options out of your head. If you can’t think of anything, one of the things that can give meaning to your life can be to volunteer helping other people or fight for a cause that you think is just.

    Carrying out new projects or helping others can be some of the things that can bring meaning to our lives. You will know that it is something that brings you well-being when you decide to dedicate part of your time to doing that for the mere pleasure of doing it.

    5. Start over.

    Throughout our lives, we may find ourselves in situations that require us to have to start over from scratch. Despite the fact that at first we see everything black, we must think that this is not the case. That we do not see the different alternatives that we have does not mean that they do not exist or that they will not come in the future.

    How many times have you tried to imagine what this or that would be like and then it was nothing like what you expected? That’s because you were basing yourself on your beliefs to figure out how things will be rather than on objective facts. Knowing how something that has not yet happened is going to turn out is tremendously difficult if we do not know the circumstances that will accompany us.

    However, this does not mean that we cannot be masters of our destiny. One way to take charge of your life can start by setting small short-term goals (with a goal date included and marked on a calendar) that will take you little by little towards what you want. They say that Rome was not made in a day.

    Letting go of the past is the key

    Science seems to have it clear. According to a study published by the University of St. Andrew (Scotland), forgiving people who have done you wrong is the key to forgetting disturbing memories and moving on with your life.

    If our goal is to forget the past and start over, this team of psychologists found that we are more effective at suppressing bits of information associated with forgiven memories or offenses. This ability to forget those memories that disturb us, would at the same time provide us with an effective coping strategy to move on with our lives. 
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