Let Go Of The Past

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The following six strategies can help us to let go of the past and move on with our lives more effectively :

 

1) VALIDATION :

According to Horowitz, if our past childhood trauma and the pain it has caused is, subsequently, invalidated (e.g. denied, ignored, dismissed, minimized, mocked etc.) by those who have harmed us, the psychological harm done to us is amplified. This makes it harder to move forward in our lives.

However, if this is the case, it can be helpful to seek and obtain validation from significant others, such as a therapist who is trained to work with childhood trauma survivors, or from what Alice Miller (1923-2010) referred to as an ‘enlightened witness.’ Miller defined an ‘enlightened witness’ as a compassionate and empathetic person who helps the childhood trauma survivor ‘recognize the injustices [s/he] suffered and give vent to {his/her] feelings.’

 

2) EXPRESSION OF PAIN :

This pain we have been caused does not necessarily need to be expressed directly to those responsible ; for example, we may describe our experiences and feelings in a journal, or, as Franz Kafka did, write a letter to the person/s responsible (in the case of Kafka, the letter was to his abusive and narcissistic father) without actually sending it (instead, his biographer informs us that he gave it to his mother to give to his father – he was too frightened to approach his father directly – but she never did, possibly because she believed it wouldn’t do any good).

Talking about our traumatic childhood experiences can, however, be very difficult ; you can read about why this is in my previously published article entitled : Why It’s So Difficult To Talk About Our Experiences Of Extreme Childhood  Trauma.

Sadly, too, some doctors may be reluctant to discuss our childhood trauma with us for reasons that I outline in my previously published article entitled : Why Don’t Doctors Ask About Childhood Trauma?

 

3) CONSCIOUS DECISION : 

Because we might have been ruminating, perhaps obsessively, on the trauma and injustice contained in our past, the process of turning things over and over in our minds may have become almost automatic. It is therefore necessary to make a firm, conscious decision to embark upon the journey of letting go. In connection with this, you may wish to read my previously published post : Mindfulness Meditation : An Escape Route Away From Obsessive, Negative Ruminations.’

 

4) ADOPT BENEFICIAL TIME PERSPECTIVE :

According to TIME PERSPECTIVE THERAPY (developed by Zimbardo, Sword and Sword, 2013)  we should use the past to our advantage (such as learning from previous mistakes and focusing on good things that happened rather than dwelling on the bad) ; develop the ability to live in the present and enjoy it, but not in such a heedless and hedonistic way that it endangers our future ; and, also, adopt an optimistic view of the future and plan for it (by setting achievable goals). To read more about TIME PERSPECTIVE THEORY, click here.

 

5) CULTIVATION OF COMPASSION :

Compassion-Focused Therapy (CFT) can effectively help people move on from their traumatic childhood experiences. It was initially developed in the early part of this century by Paul Gilbert and can be particularly effective in helping those suffering from feelings of shame resulting from their traumatic experiences (such feelings are a very common response to a traumatic childhood which is why I have devoted a whole category to the examination of it on this site : see the SHAME AND SELF-HATRED section).

Specifically, CFT can help with :

  • alleviating feelings of being ‘worthless,” inadequate’, ‘ a bad person‘ etc
  • alleviating negative emotions such as self-disgust and anxiety
  • reducing concern about what others think of one
  • reducing feelings of anger towards those who have mistreated us
  • reducing levels of arousal and hypervigilance

6) REFRAME :

Many people do not realize the damage that their childhood has done to them and may take a sanitized view of it due to what they are taught to believe by those who harmed them or by society more generally (in connection with this, you may be interested in Alice Miller’s classic book entitled : ‘Thou Shalt Not Be Aware : Society’s Betrayal Of The Child.’

By reframing the past, with the help of a psychotherapist, we can start to obtain a genuine insight into what really happened to us which, in turn, empowers us and makes us less of a slave to the unconscious forces that may be ruining our lives.

 

RESOURCE :

Let Go Of The Past | Self Hypnosis Downloads

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

 

About David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE)

Psychologist, researcher and educationalist.

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