Let Go of the Past

This phrase has been bandied about quite a lot over the last decade, at least in my circles. What exactly does it mean to let go of the past? Here’s my answer.

Suppose someone is ignoring your efforts to communicate. How do you let go of the pain? You don’t necessarily let go of the person, because that person is often part of your family or close circle of friends.

The pain is actually self-created. See if you can follow my logic. Let’s say your son or hasn’t talked to you in a year (and, by the way, I’m speaking from experience here). In spite of your best efforts to communicate in various modes, you have had little or no response. The key is, what do you think when this is happening? You do have a choice about your thoughts. Do you think, My son is selfish and uncaring. He is deliberately withholding communication in order to punish me. He doesn’t like me.

Those thoughts are guaranteed to hurt. But wait, who created those thoughts? You did. Can you think different thoughts?

Try thinking this instead: My son is establishing his independence. He’s going through a difficult time in his life right now and wants to be free from any encumbrances. He still loves me.

In both ways of thinking, you have created a story. And this story you created is what determines your feelings.

I said this post was about letting go of the past. The above illustration is about the recent past. Let’s go back further, say, to teenage years.

I was 14 and having the worst day of my young life. What I remember most vividly is that I was lying on my bed sobbing because my father had forgotten to take me to freshman orientation, that all-important social marker of the beginning of my high school education. My father was mowing the lawn, conveniently out of range of my drama. I remember my thoughts being something along the lines of, My life is ruined, and my father doesn’t care.

What a downer that was! I had a very bad case of victim mentality back then. Looking back, I can clearly see that the event itself—missing the orientation—had very little significance. The meaning I was giving to the situation was that I was not loved.

I can now think a whole series of new thoughts about what happened. For example, I could have paid attention to the news about the upcoming high school year and arranged to be at the orientation myself. I didn’t need to depend on my father to do it for me. In that way I would have seen the schedule as my responsibility, not his. Or even if it remained his responsibility in my mind, I could have thought, Well, he has a lot on his mind, and he forgot. I’m sure he didn’t realize how important it was to me. No real harm was done.

So, have I let this hurt go? I think so, in this instance. I can now see that my father was not a great communicator and did have a lot of other things on his mind, and I don’t hold it against him. Nobody’s perfect.

So what does it mean to let go of the past? Let go of the negative and unforgiving thoughts you are thinking. That’s what makes it hurt. You will still remember, but the pain will be gone.

I’d love to hear about your experiences with letting go. Please comment below.


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Never Too Late To Bloom

Never Too Late To Bloom