Start Living in the Present by Letting Go of the Past

Ready to live more in the present moment and let go of the past?

"To let go does not mean to get rid of. To let go means to let be. When we let be with compassion, things come and go on their own.” –Jack Kornfield

Not letting go stems from fear—fear of loss, fear of the unknown, fear of failure. Holding on to pain doesn’t fix anything. Replaying the past over and over again doesn’t change it, and wishing that things were different doesn’t make it so. In some cases, especially when it comes to the past, all you can do is accept whatever it is that you’re holding on to and then let it go. That’s how everything changes. You have to let go of what is hurting you even if it feels like it’s almost impossible. Deciding to hold on to the past will hold you back from creating a strong sense of self—a self that isn’t defined by your past, but rather by who you want to be.

Painful feelings can sometimes be comfortable especially if they’re all you know. Some people have trouble letting go of their pain or other unpleasant emotions about their past because they think those feelings are part of their identity. In some ways, they may not know who they are without their pain. This makes it impossible for them to let go.

Letting go means to release all doubt, worry, and fear about a situation, person, or outcome. It’s releasing anything that disrupts your happiness and no longer serves you on your journey. Letting go is a choice to decide that you will no longer dwell on things that are out of your control and focus on what you can control instead.

Letting go creates space for fresh beginnings: stripping you of what happened yesterday and enabling the doors of brand new opportunities to open today. Letting go is about accepting what is happening right now and not worrying about what will come up tomorrow. It’s an internal process that must happen for you to truly feel better and get on with life in a healthy way.

Why do we hold on?

Sometimes, we create and maintain problems because they give us a sense of identity. This is why we often hold on to our pain far beyond its ability to serve us. Don’t be afraid to let go of all that is no longer serving you.

We replay past mistakes over and over again in our head, allowing feelings of shame and regret to shape our actions in the present. We cling to frustration and worry about the future as if the act of fixation somehow gives us power. We hold stress in our minds and bodies, potentially creating serious health issues, and accept that state of tension as the norm.

Why is it so difficult to let go of experiences that have caused us pain and suffering?

For many of us, we get stuck in the past because of our need for certainty. Certainty is one of the six basic human needs and is fundamentally about survival. We all need to feel certain that we can avoid pain and, ideally, find some comfort in our lives. Continuous pain means continuous damage, and that eventually leads to our demise. It’s frightening to step into the unknown. It’s difficult to be vulnerable. And, it can be overwhelmingly uncomfortable to have that sense of uncertainty about what lies ahead. So, we hang on to the past because even if it’s covered in pain, it’s what we are familiar with and what we feel certain about.

How do you let go of past hurts and move on?

  1. Make the decision to let it go. Things don’t disappear on their own. You need to make the commitment to “let it go.” If you don’t make this conscious choice up-front, you could end up self-sabotaging any effort to move on from this past hurt. Making the conscious decision to let it go also means accepting that you have a choice to let it go…to stop reliving the past pain, to stop going over the details of the story in your head every time you think of the other person. This is empowering to most people, knowing that it is their choice to either hold on to the pain or to live a future life without it.

  2. Accept the things you cannot change. We all want to know why something ended the way it did or how someone could end up hurting us so badly without having any concern about how it negatively impacted us. We believe that we deserve the right to these answers. We want some level of understanding. The painful truth is we don’t always get that “closure” we think we ought to have. Not everyone will explain why they did something or even apologize when they are at fault. I know firsthand that this hurts. Not getting solid answers and having to move on with life without closure sucks, but it’s something many of us have to do at one point or another. Fully accepting the situation as it is without constantly wishing it would be different is really the only way to getting on the road to being okay. This isn’t only about accepting situations. We have to start accepting people for who they are as well and believing them when they show us their true colors because they aren’t lying.

  3. Allow yourself to feel negative emotions. Whether you lost a loved one through death or a break-up, honor your loss. Trying to ignore your negative emotions will extend your suffering. Loss is difficult to experience, and it’s okay to allow yourself to hurt and be sad. Let yourself feel and go through the grief process so that you can move forward.

  4. Learn forgiveness. Resentment and unwillingness to forgive will keep you locked in the past and prevent you from moving forward with your life. Remember: When you forgive, you aren’t doing it for the other person; you’re doing it for yourself. If for no other reason than that, forgive and let go. Forgiveness isn’t a sign of weakness. Instead, it’s simply saying, “You did something that hurt me, but I want to move forward in my life and welcome joy back into it. I can’t do that fully until I let this go.” Forgiveness is a way of tangibly letting something go. It’s also a way of empathizing with the other person and trying to see things from their point-of-view. It's all about understanding. And forgiving yourself may be an important part of this step as well, as sometimes we may end up blaming ourselves for the situation or hurt. While we indeed may have had some part to play in the hurt, there’s no reason you need to keep beating yourself up over it. If you can’t forgive yourself, how will you be able to live in future peace and happiness

“I am not what happened to me, I am what I choose to become.”— Carl Jung

Try to let go of whatever's holding you back from experiencing yourself. You’ll probably realize that you are not what other people say you are. You are not your pain, your past, or your emotions. It’s the negative ideas about ourselves and our hurtful self-talk that get in the way of who we really want to be. Being able to let go requires a strong sense of self, which gives you the ability to learn and grow from your experiences.

  1. Learn how to control your mind. The human mind is the most complex tool we own, and it can either be our biggest ally or worst enemy. Having the power to let things go starts there. Making an intentional choice to no longer let past issues and people who hurt us control the mind is what can break the cycle of unhealthy focus on these thoughts, ideas, and feelings. The reality is your thoughts don’t define your value. The more we can simply watch our thoughts come and go without attaching our identity to them, the easier letting go becomes.

  2. Get it all out. Having the ability to express your emotions in a healthy way is another step to processing things before deciding to let them go. While obsessing over the details of what happened in the past is never the healthy way to go, it’s important to analyze why you’re feeling a certain way and how you can show up differently the next time. There are so many breakthroughs to uncover through self-reflection. Other ways to express yourself include talking to a trusted friend, family member, or therapist. Seeking out counseling is one of the best ways to receive objective advice and support throughout your journey of healing and learning to let go. Sometimes, friends and family sit so close to a particular situation that they’re unable to provide unbiased support the way in which you need it. And, sometimes they don’t always offer the best advice. Sometimes, it’s not always that easy to let something go.

  3. Stay present. The present is all we have. We can’t go back and fix the past, and what happens in the future isn’t here yet. We must make an effort every day to remember that and allow ourselves to open up and enjoy what is unfolding right in front of us: all parts of the journey both easy and hard, good and bad. You are right where you are supposed to be. Embrace the present and all it has to offer: a new opportunity to begin again. No matter how much you may stumble along your journey of letting go, the present is always here to remind me that you don’t have to stay stuck on yesterday or worry about what will happen tomorrow. Every day, we have a choice to keep holding on just a little bit longer or conclude that today is the day we will finally let go.

  4. Stop being the victim and blaming others. In every moment, you have that choice—to continue to feel bad about another person’s actions or to start feeling good. You need to take responsibility for your own happiness and not put such power into the hands of another person. Why would you let the person who has hurt you in the past have such power right here and right now?

  5. Create a positive mantra to counter the painful thoughts. How you talk to yourself can either move you forward or keep you stuck. Often, having a mantra that you tell yourself in times of emotional pain can help you re-frame your thoughts. Instead of getting stuck in, “I can’t believe this happened to me!” try a positive mantra such as, “I am fortunate to be able to find a new path in life—one that is good for me.”

  6. Create physical distance. It’s not uncommon to hear someone say that you should distance yourself from the person or situation that is causing you to be upset. Creating physical or psychological distance between ourselves and the person or situation can help with letting go for the simple reason that we are not having to think about it, process it, or be reminded of it as much.

  7. Surround yourself with people who fill you up. We can’t do life alone, and we can’t expect ourselves to get through our hurts alone either. Allowing ourselves to lean on loved ones and their support is such a wonderful way of not only limiting isolation but of reminding us of the good that is in our lives.

  8. Give yourself permission to talk about it. When you’re dealing with painful feelings or a situation that hurt you, it’s important to give yourself permission to talk about it. Sometimes, people can’t let go because they feel they aren’t allowed to talk about it. This may be because the people around them no longer want to hear about it, or the person is embarrassed or ashamed to keep talking about it but talking it out is important. That’s why we recommend finding someone to talk to who is patient and accepting as well as willing to be your sounding board.

To let go of past hurts, you need to make the conscious decision to take control of the situation. However, this can take time and practice. Be kind to yourself as you practice refocusing how you see the situation and celebrate the small victories you have.

Doing what’s right isn’t always easy, and sometimes doing what’s right for yourself means making the choice to walk away from someone you love. You may be leaving them because your ideas of love are different, the timing is off, or maybe the situation is unhealthy. Regardless of the reason, it’s always hard to say goodbye.

Dealing with the heartache of letting go can be incredibly difficult to navigate, but it is possible, and it’s also necessary.

  1. Give yourself time. Grief has no timeline, no one expects you to wake up feeling fine, and you shouldn’t expect that of yourself either. Your first reaction might be to just let it go and act like it never happened but be honest and realistic with your feelings. Know that it’s okay to feel hurt and sad, and although it’s uncomfortable, these are healthy feelings to have. Remind yourself that in time you will be able to wake up and get through each day without carrying around the loss of this love.

  2. Re-examine what love means to you. Make a list of the ways you want to be loved. Chances are, if you’re letting go of someone you love they probably don’t match up with what you need and desire. It may have been many little things or one major issue that contributed to finally cutting ties, but the quantity doesn’t matter. The quality of the love you receive is most important and realizing that is one of the most surefire ways to let go, eventually leading you to the right kind of love.

  3. Love yourself. This may seem like a cliché, but it’s truly the final step in letting go. Loving yourself goes hand-in-hand with self-care; in fact, it should fall number one on your self-care list. Remember what you love most about yourself and continue to nourish those parts of you. Most of all, remember that loving yourself can only lead to bigger and better things, Queen.

As a gentle reminder, it’s important that we honor where we are on our individual journeys of letting go. This is a process that may be more challenging for some than others. Know that wherever you are right now, is okay.

Why is Moving on a Must for You?

The first step in letting go of the past is to determine your reason for wanting to let go of the past. Ask yourself: “What are the reasons that I absolutely must move beyond this?” How will your life change? How will it change the direction of your relationships? And, how will you feel in this new chapter of your life?

This is one of the most important parts of the process because it will help you stay motivated. Gaining a clear sense of purpose is essential to establishing any goal. Your purpose will serve as your emotional drive when you feel like giving up. You are inevitably going to have setbacks and challenges, but if you have a strong enough reason and a purpose that drives you, you will stay focused and dedicated.

The next step toward letting go of the past is to identify your emotional habits. This is one of the most challenging parts of learning to let go. How do you live your life? What are your tendencies? Where do you live emotionally?

When we grow accustomed to certain emotions, even negative ones, we don’t really notice how they impact us on a daily basis. You don’t realize that you’re stuck in a negative emotional loop–you just believe you’re reacting as anyone would to any given situation, but our unique emotional habits can have profound influence on the way we look at life, the way we carry ourselves, the way we speak, the words we use, and the way we act, so why settle for a life where we empower the negative emotions and disempower the positive ones?

By identifying your emotional habits, you can start to make the shift toward actively conditioning yourself toward a more positive experience. When you catch yourself falling into a negative emotional habit, try to cut off the thought and switch gears immediately. The more you condition yourself, the more wired those emotions become and the more easily you can adapt to any situation thrown your way.

All your feelings are legitimate. It’s important to feel them fully and then move on. Nursing your negative emotions for too long is a bad habit.

People who hold on to these past hurts often relive the pain over and over in their minds. Sometimes, a person can even get “stuck” in this pain, in this hurt, in this blame.

The only way you can accept new joy and happiness into your life is to make space for it. If your heart is filled full-up with pain and hurt, how can you be open to anything new?

Let go of the pain. Do something different today and welcome happiness back into your life.

“Some of us think holding on makes us strong, but sometimes it is letting go.”—Herman Hesse

Learning to let go of something in your past, of something that is just an unimportant distraction or of trying to control what you cannot control can free up huge amounts of the energy and the time you have to use for something better and more fulfilling. It’s not always easy, but it can be life-changing.

Holding on to the past can be a conscious decision just like letting go and moving forward is a conscious decision.

One of the best ways to heal from hurts is to learn lessons from the situation and use those to focus on growth and moving forward.

Why Holding onto the Past is Bad

Holding onto the past is always damaging in some way. Even holding on to positive events from the past creates limitations in people’s lives and sets boundaries for the future.

Our experiences, good and bad, change us. They make us into slightly new versions of ourselves. They teach us things to do and things to avoid, but once the lessons are learned, these teachable moments can begin to hold us back too.

You will never be able to fully apply past experiences to present situations. No current situation will ever be identical to something that happened years ago.

For example, if you are trying to apply a negative experience from a past relationship to a current relationship, it will never be exactly the same. Different people are involved, and different circumstances exist.

You may be tempted to use your past experience as an excuse or justification to act in a certain way in your current relationship, but the situations are different, and the outcomes will be different as well. You may want to avoid responsibility and blame your past for your current actions (or inactions), but that will not empower you to get out of the victim mindset.

You can accept and embrace the person that you have become due to your past relationships, but those relationships will not be duplicated with new people. You have to move on from old situations and accept your current life as it is. Rather than wasting your energy reliving your past, it is best to focus on improving your future. That means letting go. Relying fully on past experiences prevents you from experiencing anything new.

Anytime you rely on your past to mold your current life, you limit what you see to things that you have seen before. This makes your past your only source of future creation. You must think of the past as being largely irrelevant in order to experience the present.

There are important things to be learned from the art of being able to let things go. Letting things go is the first step to relinquishing unhealthy attachments to people, events, and irritations. The present moment is the best time to make a conscious decision to release negative influences and enjoy life as it unfolds in front of you.

Begin to let go, Queen...

The hardest part of this process is moving out of your comfort zone and proceeding with something that is new and unfamiliar. True and valuable wisdom comes along with accepting the present, letting go of the past, and having faith in the future.And, remember...what is not growing is already dead. Happy healing, Queen!

Please share your thoughts about letting go of the past in the comments section below. You never know, Queen, the things you say may help others learn how to let things go too.

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