Sometimes the memories of our past continue to haunt us in the present and interfere with our life. When this happens, the only thing you can do is to stop running and face up to the truth. Sometimes letting go of the past hurts less.
It’s not always pretty, but when we can stop trying to avoid our pain and instead look inside ourselves and examine our past in the light, we will finally feel better. Here’s how to let go of the past and make peace with your past.
“I understand the temptation to draw an angry X through a whole season or a whole town or a whole relationship, to crumple it up and throw it away, to get it as far away as possible from a new life, a new future. … These days I’m walking over and retrieving those years from the trash, erasing the X, unlocking the door. It’s the only way that darkness turns to light.”
– Shauna Niequist
How to Let Go of the Past | Make Peace with Your Past
I have a past. You have a past. Everyone has a past. But it doesn’t have to be your future.
At any moment, you can choose to say, “This is not how I want my life to continue.” And make the choice to let things go and change things right then and there.
I read once that the phrase “used to believe” can refer to things that you believed just a few minutes ago and are now changing your mind about. What you believed in the past doesn’t have to be what you always believe.
Maybe you’ve been carrying around a story for years about yourself. And whether or not it’s true, you can choose at any moment to say, “This is not what I believe anymore.” And you can learn to let go and choose new beliefs to go into the future with, like being the hero of your story.
Learning to Let Go | How to Make Peace with Your Past Mistakes
Maybe you made a mistake in the past that you now regret. Or maybe something happened to you instead. Let yourself process your emotions for as long as it takes (it can be helpful if you talk to someone during this process or journal it out), and when you’re ready, you might want to try some forgiveness work in order to let go of the past.
Oftentimes the person we most need to forgive is our own self.
Learning When to Let Go
Just remember that in the past you were doing the best you could in your life with the knowledge you had at the time. And you’re doing the best you can now. Believe it.
And keep going.
How to Do a Letting Go Ritual | Learn How to Let Go of the Past
Sometimes we hold onto painful memories and experiences from the past because we just don’t know how to let go of them. Here’s how to do a letting go ritual so you can complete the past and move on.
For our letting go “ritual,” this is all going to be symbolic stuff. As far as I know, you can’t literally let go of the past, so taking a few symbolic actions and visualizing what you want is the closest we can get. 😃 This would be a great way to close out the year or to symbolically complete a certain chapter of your life.
To start, grab a few pieces of paper and a pen or pencil. Similar to forgiveness work, we’re going to write down old memories and experiences that are currently having a negative effect on us. If it’s something bad and you still remember it, it’s probably still affecting you in some way.
You could stick to a particular theme, like negative memories from the past year, or even go through your whole life if you really want to go in depth, but I’d recommend starting with a handful of memories (no more than a couple pages of writing it out or journaling) and doing this ritual more than once in the future for more memories.
You can write it down in whatever way you’d like – free writing, journaling, stream of consciousness writing, listing specific negative experiences or people or things they said. Anything you’d like to let go of.
Next, we’re going to look back at your list and go through each memory and forgive and let go of the past one memory at a time, one by one. For this part, you have a few different options. You might say a mantra for each one (such as, “I forgive you, I’m sorry, I love you, thank you”), cut out each memory onto its own piece of paper and then shred or burn the paper, cross through your list one line at a time with a black marker, or flush the whole piece of paper down the toilet. Whatever feels like “letting go” to you.
This might bring up some bad feelings and make you think about things you haven’t thought about for a long time, so don’t be surprised if you feel worse before you feel better. You might want to talk to someone afterward to better process your feelings.
Next, we’re going to finish our letting go ritual with some visualizing – in the shower, of all places. 😃 I like taking a shower as part of letting go of old memories because you can visualize the water washing off all the bad memories and negative experiences. Imagine the water washing you clean of all the bad and toxic energy you’ve been holding onto, and that when you get out of the shower, you’ll be starting with a clean slate and a fresh perspective on life.
If you’d like more ways to let go of the past, check out our 30 Day Negativity Detox.