Letting Go of The Past
Article written by Randi Fine
Narcissistic Abuse Awareness and Guidance with Randi Fine
Life’s challenges are not supposed to paralyze you, they’re supposed to help you discover who you are. ~Bernice Johnson Reagon
The process of changing, letting go of the past, may be frightening and difficult even when we truly desire it.
Changing our thought patterns is not something that happens overnight. Letting go of the past is a process. It requires redefining our identity and changing our patterns. But that should never deter us. Everyone can heal their past. All that is required is courage and determination.
Granted, the human experience is not an easy one. When we enter this world we are given few guarantees about what awaits us on our journey. We are promised times of joy and times of sorrow, times of thriving and times of suffering, times of hope and times of despair.
Pain is unavoidable. No one escapes life without enduring their share of it. It may seem as if some have larger burdens than others, but that is not true. It is one’s perception that determines the weight of an experience. No two people have the same reality so no two people will experience adversity the same way.
Many factors contribute to our interpretation of life’s challenges. Upbringing plays a significant role in preparing us for the road that lies ahead. We navigate that road through the use of coping skills, healthy or unhealthy, attained in our impressionable years.
Healthy coping skills are not innate; they are learned behaviors. Some of us will have the advantage of proper parental modeling, some of us will not.
Our instincts take over where our inability to cope leaves off. When emotional pain hurts too much to feel, we instinctively react as we do to physical pain—ignore it, medicate it, deny and compartmentalize it, or bandage it. These makeshift survival skills allow us to move on to the next thing without having to accept what is right before us. They help us build walls of protection. The higher these walls go, the more shielded we are from the pulse of life. Over time these walls imprison us along with all the pain we have held on to.
A great deal of energy is expended in suppressing the pain we carry with us. It becomes a dam of feelings that pushes harder and harder against the wall, trying to break free. We can only suppress it, mask it, or numb it for so long before it starts seeping through the cracks in ways we do not intend. We may have believed that we controlled the pain, but eventually the pain begins to control us.
The pain may turn to bitterness and then bitterness may provide a self-righteous rationale to take a victim stance, to justify holding on to the hurt. If we do not believe we caused it then why should we be the one to let it go? Then we walk around proudly wearing a badge that says, “I am hurt and entitled to it.”
Our pain becomes an integral part of our identity; there comes a time when we do not know who we are without it. We find ourselves stuck—trying to move forward while looking backwards. Every moment is impacted by the pain of our past, and the future looks bleak. Letting go of the past is very difficult; there is a sense of comfort in clinging to it, scary to imagine life without it. But clinging to the past is self-sabotage. We must let it go. We must move past our fear and discover the wonderful life that we are entitled to—the one that is waiting for us.
To let go does not mean we become emotionless in regard to a traumatic event; it means giving up the torture we have associated with our emotions in regard to a painful event.
The first steps to letting go of the past and healing are acknowledging that a problem exists and desiring change.
To change we must accept our feelings–make peace with them. We never want to deny our emotions and feelings; they are what make us real, what make us loving and compassionate. Acceptance of our feelings does not mean we like or approve of them. We can accept something but not necessarily like or approve of it. The goal is being able to feel our emotions without tormenting ourselves, hanging on to them, or acting out as a result of them. Through the process of acceptance and change we can eventually let go of past feelings that hold us back from enjoying our life in the present
Since it may take time to excavate through the dense accumulation of emotions, it is best to chip away at them little by little. It helps to have a professional guide you through this process; help you to identify your self-defeating patterns and accept your feelings as they come up.
Feelings never before felt can be very disconcerting. But feeling pain means feeling human. By allowing ourselves to feel we become stronger, more resilient, and better equipped to manage other adversity. We learn that when we face our pain with acceptance we will be led through it and then out of it. That understanding stretches our comfort zones. The ever-lengthening chain of positive outcomes teaches us to have hope and faith. We desire more for ourselves then we ever felt worthy of before. We live with intent and our confidence soars. We are prideful knowing that we hold the power over pain—pain does not hold the power over us.
What happened in the past is real, but the past is meant to teach us. We are supposed to learn from the past, not live in it. Our experiences, good and bad, will always be a part of our personal story, just as history will always be part of the story of the world we live in. And our story never ends; we continue to add chapters because our realities are constantly changing. But we must keep turning the pages.
It is not possible to live in the past—the person we are today is not the person we were ten or twenty years ago.
Life is full of countless blessings and infinite possibilities. Every moment is a lesson in inspiration. We need only be present.
To receive a free Identify Your Emotional Pain home workshop, please email LoveYourLife@RandiFine.com
Randi Fine is the author of the groundbreaking book Close Encounters of the Worst Kind: The Narcissistic Abuse Survivor’s Guide to Healing, the most comprehensive, most well researched, and most up-to-date book on this subject. In addition to helping survivors recognize their abuse and heal from it, this book teaches mental health professionals how to recognize and properly treat the associated abuse syndrome. She is also the author of Cliffedge Road: A Memoir, the first and only book to characterize the life-long progression of complications caused by narcissistic child abuse.