How To Let Go Of The Past And Start Living Your Life Afresh
You can hit that “refresh” button, even if your past has made you broken. Here’s how to let go of the past once and for all.
Researched, written by Amber & The Team
Updated on February 2, 2023
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The past… is so deceiving. Everything that ever happened to you, your experiences, and your accomplishments seem to be an inseparable part of who you are. Many of your behavior patterns stem from something that you’ve experienced before.
And it’s really nothing new – you probably heard of terms like “childhood trauma”, “post-traumatic stress disorder”, and “social anxiety”… A lot of people are experiencing them regularly and it’s one or another form of reaction to something that happened in the past.
There might be positive things from the past that influence your life as well. You might have achieved beautiful things that gave you courage, or self-esteem. You might have amazing memories that keep you happy whenever you think of them – and it’s beautiful!
But what happens if your past was… not really good? How do you keep going if mistakes, accidents, and injustices from the past keep haunting you and preventing you from being happy?..
In my own life, I made a few mistakes that created long-term consequences that I still have to deal with, up to this day. I also have quite a lot of painful experiences that resulted in phobias, anxieties, and insecurities… And yet, I am still going. I guess one can say that I’m going pretty strong.
Today I want to show you how you can let go of the past that keeps impacting your life. I want to tell you how you can hit that ‘restart’ button and start living your life afresh – without resentment, anger, or self-beating talks that keep swirling in your head.
Just a quick disclaimer – I am not a therapist. If you experienced severe trauma, it’s always advisable to get professional help. My thoughts are based on my experience only and I do not claim that they are some kind of a magic formula. Nevertheless, they might help you, just like they helped me.
It never hurts to try.
Let Go Of The Past: It’s Not Easy, But It’s An Important Step To Take
What Does It Mean When You Can’t Let Go Of The Past?
For many people, it is hard to let go of the past, and that’s completely normal. Humans are prone to get attached to things, people, places, and non-material things. Stability provides safety.
Interestingly, people also tend to get attached to their past. Even if the past is painful, for a person who keeps living in the past, the feeling of suffering is also something they are used to. If we let go of the past, we let go of the invisible self-pity role or a particular image of ourselves that we have in our head – and that’s really hard!
Why You Should Let Go Of The Past?
The past is holding us from going forward. Negative emotions that are related to past experiences are notoriously effective at holding us down and preventing us from achieving happiness, prosperity, and personal growth. On the other hand, if you let go of the past, you allow yourself to be free and to move on towards light and beauty in your life. It is healthy to let go of the past – and it’s the right choice as well.
How To Let Go Of The Past And Start Living Your Life Afresh
1. Your Past Is Not Who You Are
The most important thing that helped me to finally let go of the past is understanding that my past does not define me. No matter what happened, you are not your past. You are not your mistakes. You are not your accidents. And even more – you are definitely NOT what other people have done to you, or how they treated you.
You are you. Even if your past was magically wiped out today, you would still be you. Sure, you would lose your so-called ‘identity’, but ultimately, there’s more in you than just your past experiences.
The real you – your consciousness or your soul (you can call it however you prefer) can’t be affected by what’s happened. Here’s why.
2. The Past Is Just An Illusion
This might sound tricky, but when you think well, everything that happened in the past is only an illusion now. The past does not exist anymore – only the memories or collected information (documents, photos) are a form of traces of the past. But you can’t go back to the past, you can’t change it, you can’t touch it, you can only think of it.
If the past is only an illusion… Does it really make sense to associate yourself with something that isn’t real anymore? Sure, you might have to deal with the echoes from the past, for example, paying an old debt that was a mistake from your youth. But the fact that you borrowed money without thinking is already past – an illusion – and thinking about it, ruminating, and keeping a negative self talk about it is unproductive.
To let go of the past, you must understand this illusion and how harmful it is to hold on to something that doesn’t exist anymore. It’s not productive, and it’s damaging both to your mental and physical health.
Getting Past Your Past: Take Control of Your Life with Self-Help Techniques from EMDR Therapy
3. Stop Identifying Yourself With The Past
If you want to let go of the past, live your life afresh, or start a new book of your life, finally stop being chained by resentment and anger. Try to stop identifying yourself with the illusion of the past.
Think about the so-called ‘identity’ that you gave yourself by thinking that your past is an inseparable part of you. For example, I used to think that I am a fearful person because my parents were always overly protective. They thought that I am always unsafe. “Be careful”, “don’t do that”, and “what if *scary scenario X* happens?” were the words I heard all the time. But when I thought about it well enough… I saw that through the years, I have identified myself with my parents being so scared of me – and I made it a part of me. Once I understood that it was all just an illusion now and that I am not what my parents thought me to be (unsafe), I felt relief.
The straight way to let go of the past is through acceptance. Accept everything that happened, no matter how unpleasant it was, accept that it happened to you, but refuse to stay affected by it. Acceptance does not mean that you give up, or that you justify the bad things that happened to you or what other people have done to you. Instead, it gives you the freedom to decide if you still want those memories to have control over your life.
It’s not something that happens overnight, that’s clear. It will probably take time and work to let go of the past, but it’s a journey worth taking.
Journaling can be a great help here – simply sitting down, and writing down your thoughts can help you get closer to acceptance. If you experience very strong negative emotions when you do that, I encourage you to talk to a therapist just because it might be easier for you this way.
Journaling about sad things might not feel good at first, or while you do it. But if you write about your feelings and notice that you feel better after that, it will be a sign that you’re going in the right direction. And then – the sky is the limit. You can let go of the past and virtually anything that does not contribute to your well-being now.
You Know When It’s Time To Let Go Of The Past
… It’s why you have landed on this article – your time to let go of the past has probably come. And if you’re still doubting, you can live free of the past. Remember – the past is just an illusion now. You are here, now, and the present moment is the only real moment we will ever have. Savor it.
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