Let It Go
I find one of the biggest challenges couples face in counseling is letting go of the past, including negative relationship patterns. Without letting go of the resentment and the past, there is no healing and no opportunity to make the relationship healthy.
Life experiences affect people in a variety of ways. Some people find it easy to move on after a challenging experience, while others find they ruminate (overthink and/or perseverate) on past negative interactions or hurt. People who struggle to let go of specific events from their past may have experienced trauma. Trauma is a kind of psychological wound that can result from any distressing experience, such as loss, danger, or deep embarrassment. The distress trauma causes can also change how people think; as a result, they may see rumination as a way to gain insight. However, rumination may make it more challenging to solve problems, thereby preventing people from moving forward.
People can also hold onto the past for a variety of reasons. Some may long for positive experiences that are now over or dwell on past events because of an unconscious desire to avoid being hurt in the future.
So, how do you let go of the past?
1. The first step sounds simplistic, but you must commit to letting go. To succeed, you must realize that it is necessary and feel ready to do so. This can happen at different times for different people, but it can be empowering once someone makes this decision.
2. Feel the feelings. Memories of the past bring up strong emotions. It would be best to allow yourself to feel those feelings unconditionally and not try to stop them. This is how people process what has happened to them. It isn't easy to experience such strong emotions, so choose a safe place, journal it, or seek therapy.
3. Take responsibility. If relevant, it can help people who feel guilt, embarrassment, or shame about the past to take responsibility for their role in the event. This does not mean blaming oneself, but simply acknowledging what happened and taking ownership of past actions. Often, taking responsibility will cause an individual to feel less helpless and confident that they can change in the future.
4. Practice mindfulness. Focusing on what is happening now often leads to less rumination. Some examples of mindfulness include:
· Noticing small joys, such as the taste of a delicious meal or the warmth of the sun on the skin.
· Spending time in nature, bringing attention back to the environment whenever the mind wanders.
· Engaging in mindful, creative hobbies, such as drawing or playing musical instruments.
· Meditation, where you can sit somewhere quiet with no distractions. Close your eyes and concentrate on your breathing. Inhale through the nose for 4, hold your breath for 4, exhale through the mouth for 4, and keep your breath for four before you inhale again. If your mind wanders, allow a moment with them and return to focusing on breathing.
· Practice self-compassion, which means treating yourself with kindness, care, and forgiveness. Be aware of your self-talk, and when it becomes become critical, replace it with positive self-talk.
I know it’s a struggle to let go of the hurt, but you must forgive (not forget) the past for a relationship to survive.