As part of our healing journeys, letting go of resentments and hurts from the past is so important. No matter what efforts you make moving forward, if you don’t let go of the past and its hold on you, you are keeping yourself from living your best life. The past is the past, there is no reason to keep reliving it. Our dwelling in negative memories, regrets, or feelings from the past either through conscious thought or on a subconscious level does not serve us. On a conscious level, you reliving a hurt that you cannot change or alter, that has already happened, and re-triggers those old emotions and feelings you have about yourself as a result of this hurt, repeats and deepens the hurt. On a subconscious level, you may not even be aware of old “tapes” playing in your mind, repeating the messages resulting from these old hurts (maybe I’m not lovable, I’m not good enough, I’m stupid…) when you encounter a similar situation in the present; you may not be aware of the tape playing but you will certainly be aware of the feelings that come up and this most often presents itself as an overreaction to a situation. You overreact because you are getting poked in an old wound.
I love an analogy I heard when I went to see a Peruvian healer, Jhaimy Alvarez-Acosta, speak http://www.childrenofthe7rays.com/aboutc7r/bios.html. Jhaimy is very wise and has a beautiful soul and way of communicating spiritual guidance from his elders. I’m going to paraphrase him (noting he speaks much more beautifully and eloquently about these matters). He talked about how we tend to wear and carry around the garbage people throw at us in our life. He was wearing a traditional Peruvian poncho..so he talked about how someone throws some garbage (maybe negative words) at you and it lands on your poncho and you make a choice…I can grab it and throw it off of me or I can keep it on my poncho. As time goes on, you get more and more garbage on your poncho, but for some reason you don’t throw the garbage off. You carry it around with you and your poncho gets heavier and heavier and dirtier and dirtier. So for me I felt it was time to clean off the garbage from my poncho.
So yes, a wonderful idea to let go of past resentments and hurts. But how do you do that??? I have to say I was a bit lost when trying to tackle it myself. But like anything, once you set an intention, you start slowly to dig and break ground, and before you know it you’ve let go of a hurt. Then another and another. Then you feel freer, lighter, and as you’ve dislodged some icky bits from your past, you’ve made space for more positive energy, love, and goodness to enter your life. I’m still working at this and it’s a process but as you go along you finally feel free of some old hurts and you notice that you deal with situations differently in the present then you would have in the past (you’ve healed that hurt and respond differently) and feel more compassion for people who previously you may have felt differently about. Here are some things I find helped me that I thought I would share.
1) Becoming Aware of Your Thoughts
Start to become aware of what you are thinking when you’re not living in the present. Write down the memories from the past or negative feelings/thoughts that come up from present circumstances. Start to make an inventory. Once you have a few written down, try to see a pattern and then label it (one or two-word labels work best). Examples could be: victim, conflict, being right, unworthiness, unlovable, loser, idiot, ugly, whatever negative labels your inner critic assigns. Then when you have one of those thoughts or memories come up, start labeling it objectively, be aware first of the feeling, then look at the thought and label it…e.g., conflict. It’s shocking once you start to become aware of the patterns and interrupting the thought process and objectively labeling it, how repetitive your thoughts are and connected to the past. When you start this process and have a random memory come up that is hurtful or negative see that this is not random, the memory is coming up for a reason …there’s something here that needs to heal.
2) Start Singing a Different Song
Once you have your list of labels, then come up with a list of the opposites for those labels (the opposite state of mind). So if it’s a victim label, feeling powerless, the opposite would be feeling guided and protected or empowered. The opposite of conflict would be peace. Carry this list around with you. So if the label conflict comes up for a thought or memory, acknowledge the thought and feeling it brings up and then evoke feelings of peace and let that feeling enter your space and breath the sigh of release. When we are hurt for the first time, and the same hurt happens again our brain starts to make the connection and draw up an emotion in response. Each time that same hurt occurs, the emotional connection is made and the wound deepens. When we start healing that wound, we allow ourselves to let go of all the times we felt that way.
3) See your Resentment/Hurts in a Different Light
It’s a great process to write it down an inventory of all your hurts on paper (focusing on one label at a time or person/relationship). Let memories you may be holding onto come. Then write down who you think the person who hurt you was at that time. Try to get in their head space at that time. Often we try to see people in the best light and paint a prettier picture of them to allow us to continue to have a relationship with them (say if they’re family), to make our choice to be in a relationship with them in the past make more sense, or to honor their memory. It’s when we start to see people as they really are/were and not who we want or wanted them to be that we can start to heal and let go of disappointment. If these people are still in your lives, you will find it much easier seeing who they are/were instead of them not being who you wish they were…and being disappointed when they don’t meet your expectations. You may also be surprised to feel compassion for who they are/were. If your hurts happened when you were a child, it can help you to see the hurts with adult eyes instead of the powerless persepective of a child. If you can see the past in a different light with objectivity, you can let it go more easily. Ask questions like who or where would I have to be in my life (with respect to the person who hurt you) to have done that. When you’re finished burn, rip or tear up the letter and set the intention to let it go. Forgive, knowing forgiving does not mean you condone what happened but that you don’t want to carry this with you anymore.
4) See the Gift in the Hurt
In retrospect, did the hurt change you as a person, who you are, make you turn a corner in your life, make you kinder. Look at your past hurts and resentments and see if there was a lesson you were supposed to learn. If you didn’t learn it, it likely repeated itself again and again in your life until you learned the lesson. Was it a life changer for you for the better. Feel gratitude for what the hurt brought into your life, even though the hurt at the time wasn’t a pleasant experience.
5) Try The Journey
I was lucky enough to have a dear friend Jennifer who was studying the Journey program founded by Brandon Bays http://www.thejourney.com/, who offered to try some sessions with me. She did the process over the phone, focused on getting me out of my head and into my body, where memories can be linked and stored. I read the book at her suggestion before we tried a session. Brandon Bays talks about her own healing journey, hurts in her life, and how she cured cancer in her body by processing and letting go of memories. She also shares other client stories, as well as a guided process in back of a book you can get a friend to talk you through (and do a journey process with you). It sounds fantastical and surreal. Overall, I was skeptical (curing cancer!) and thought it definitely wouldn’t work for me. Then I tried a session over the phone with her, skeptical as hell. My friend did a guided meditation, asked me to see what I sensed in my body, tune into what emotion was there. All of a sudden, boom, a memory came up from my childhood and I started crying. As part of the process you ask the people involved in the memory to come to the campfire with you and say what you need them to hear and then ask them to say what you needed to hear. It is amazing and healing. It sounds crazy but I as one who was skeptical was blown away at how effective this process was. I felt so much lighter after the sessions (and did do several after the first one). Very healing.
6) Seek Professional Help
If your wounds are deep, you’ve buried painful memories (from abuse, rape, etc.) or are very resistant, finding the right professional counselor or therapist or psychologist can help you immensely. These individuals are trained to help you heal. Just find someone who you feel comfortable with, trust, can see that they are walking the talk (seem like they are very happy themselves) and don’t settle until you do. If they don’t feel right to you or you don’t feel comfortable with them or respect them the path will be much slower and harder. Find someone who you feel safe with, can connect with and maybe even inspire you.
Letting go of resentments or hurt may seem daunting but the lighter, happier, more peaceful joyful you is worth it.