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How to avoid getting stuck in the past

We’ve all been hurt. You can’t be an adult — or teen — alive today who hasn’t experienced some kind of emotional pain.

It hurts. I get that.

But what you do with that hurt is probably more important than the hurt itself. Would you prefer to get back to being an active liver of life? Or do you prefer to ruminate endlessly about the past and something that cannot be changed?

In short, how do you let go of past hurts and move on? Let’s find out…

Blaming others for our hurt is what most of us start off doing. Somebody did something wrong, or they wronged us in some way that mattered to us. We want them to apologize. We want them to acknowledge what they did was wrong.

But blaming someone else for our hurt can backfire, as Holly Brown notes:

The problem with blaming others is that it can often leave you powerless. For example, you confront the person (your boss, your spouse, your parent, your child), and they say, “No, I didn’t,” or worse, “So what if I did?”, then you’re left with all this anger and hurt and no resolution.

All your feelings are legitimate. It’s important to feel them fully, and then move on. Nursing your grievances indefinitely is a bad habit, because (as the title goes) it hurts you more than it hurts them.

People who hold on to these past hurts often relive the pain over and over in their minds. Sometimes a person can even get “stuck” in this pain, in this hurt, in this blame.

The only way you can accept new joy and happiness into your life is to make space for it. If your heart is filled full-up with pain and hurt, how can you be open to anything new?

1. Make the decision to let it go.

Things don’t disappear on their own. You need to make the commitment to “let it go.” If you don’t make this conscious choice up-front, you could end up self-sabotaging any effort to move on from this past hurt.

Making the conscious decision to let it go also means accepting you have a choice to let it go. To stop reliving the past pain, to stop going over the details of the story in your head every time you think of the other person (after you finish step 2 below). This is empowering to most people, knowing that it is their choice to either hold on to the pain, or to live a future life without it.

2. Express your pain — and your responsibility.

Express the pain the hurt made you feel, whether it’s directly to the other person, or through just getting it out of your system (like venting to a friend, or writing in a journal, or writing a letter you never send to the other person). Get it all out of your system at once. Doing so will also help you understand what — specifically — your hurt is about.

We don’t live in a world of black and whites, even when sometimes it feels like we do. While you may not have had the same amount of responsibility for the hurt you experienced, there may have been a small part of the hurt that you are also partially responsible for. What could you have done differently next time? Are you an active participant in your own life, or simply a hopeless victim? Will you let your pain become your identity? Or are you someone deeper and more complex than that??

3. Stop being the victim and blaming others.

Being the victim feels good — it’s like being on the winning team of you against the world. But guess what? The world largely doesn’t care, so you need to get over yourself. Yes, you’re special. Yes, your feelings matter. But don’t confuse with “your feelings matter” to “your feelings should override all else, and nothing else matters.” Your feelings are just one part of this large thing we call life, which is all interwoven and complex. And messy.

In every moment, you have that choice — to continue to feel bad about another person’s actions, or to start feeling good. You need to take responsibility for your own happiness, and not put such power into the hands of another person. Why would you let the person who hurt you — in the past — have such power, right here, right now?

No amount of rumination of analyses have ever fixed a relationship problem. Never. Not in the entirety of the world’s history. So why choose to engage in so much thought and devote so much energy to a person who you feel has wronged you?

4. Focus on the present — the here and now — and joy.

Now it’s time to let go. Let go of the past, and stop reliving it. Stop telling yourself that story where the protagonist — you — is forever the victim of this other person’s horrible actions. You can’t undo the past, all you can do is to make today the best day of your life.

When you focus on the here and now, you have less time to think about the past. When the past memories creep into your consciousness (as they are bound to do from time to time), acknowledge them for a moment. And then bring yourself gently back into the present moment. Some people find it easier to do this with a conscious cue, such as saying to yourself, “It’s alright. That was the past, and now I’m focused on my own happiness and doing _______________.”

Remember, if we crowd our brains — and lives — with hurt feelings, there’s little room for anything positive. It’s a choice you’re making to continue to feel the hurt, rather than welcoming joy back into your life.

5. Forgive them — and yourself.

We may not have to forget another person’s bad behaviors, but virtually everybody deserves our forgiveness. Sometimes we get stuck in our pain and our stubbornness, we can’t even imagine forgiveness. But forgiveness isn’t saying, “I agree with what you did.” Instead, it’s saying, “I don’t agree with what you did, but I forgive you anyway.”

Forgiveness isn’t a sign of weakness. Instead, it’s simply saying, “I’m a good person. You’re a good person. You did something that hurt me. But I want to move forward in my life and welcome joy back into it. I can’t do that fully until I let this go.”

Forgiveness is a way of tangibly letting something go. It’s also a way of empathizing with the other person, and trying to see things from their point of view.

And forgiving yourself may be an important part of this step as well, as sometimes we may end up blaming ourselves for the situation or hurt. While we indeed may have had some part to play in the hurt (see step 2), there’s no reason you need to keep beating yourself up over it. If you can’t forgive yourself, how will you be able to live in future peace and happiness?

I know this stuff is hard and that it’s incredibly hard to let go of one’s pain — I’ve struggled with this myself. If we’ve held onto it for a long time, it feels like an old friend. Justified. It would be sacrilegious to let it go.

But nobody’s life should be defined by their pain. It’s not healthy, it adds to our stress, it hurts our ability to focus, study and work, and it impacts every other relationship we have (even the ones not directly affected by the hurt). Every day you choose to hold on to the pain is another day everybody around you has to live with that decision. And feel its consequences.

So do everybody — and yourself — a big favor: Let go of the pain. Do something different today and welcome happiness back into your life.

How to avoid getting stuck in the past

Do you have a trophy room? This is a place where you keep your various trophies, certificates, award plaques, autographed trinkets and other things that remind you of past accomplishments. This could be a fireplace mantle, space on a bookshelf, a downstairs room or a building depending on what you have been up to. If you have one of these, be careful to avoid getting stuck in the past. They tend to have common features – mainly dust.

Watch out because you might be stuck in the past.

Or are you “the expert” in a quickly-changing area like software development and finding yourself no longer being constantly challenged? You too might be stuck in the past and might soon find your career biting the dust.

There is nothing wrong with having a trophy room or being an expert, so long as you don’t let dust become a problem. There is a natural tendency to become comfortable in past accomplishments that we need to be careful to avoid. We need to constantly update our trophy rooms and continue to be actively challenged in our areas of expertise. Here are some ways to avoid getting stuck in the past:

1. Make clear goals. If you don’t have any current goals, there isn’t any place to go.

2. Avoid repetition unless it is working. One popular definition of insanity is to keep doing the same things while expecting different results. There is a catch. If you are doing something and it is working really well, keep doing it. Constantly trying to reinvent the wheel might be another definition of insanity.

3. Celebrate successes and move on. Put your new trophy with the rest while maybe tossing out one or two other ones that don’t have any current meaning. Sometimes the best trophies are the really big ones that you only get to keep for a year or so until the next person wins it. Keep winning it if you can without having to worry about it becoming too dusty because you can’t hold onto it forever.

4. Don’t get too comfortable. Sitting on the sofa mulling over past glories can be a nice thing to do from time to time but don’t let yourself become fat and lazy.

5. Create the right environment. Hang out with different people, read different magazines and visit some new places. After all, isn’t is the people you meet, the things you read and the places you go that help you become who you are?

6. Be competitive to a healthy extent. A competitive winning attitude and the right kind of competition can lead to amazing things. This doesn’t mean you need to be viewing everything as a competition. There is more to life than always trying to outdo everyone else all the time.

7. Try new things in relevant areas. The idea is to not make a wholesale change but to try something a little different.

8. Keep yourself open to new ideas from the usual places and also from places where you would not normally be sourcing them. Old sources are not always the best places to find new ideas.

9. Drop your involvements with people who are holding you back, especially those who are stuck in the past! It might seem a bit nasty disassociating from people you have known for a long time. This doesn’t need to be an abrupt thing. Simply spend more time with those who are better aligned with who you are and where you want to go. This allows you to ease your way out without coming across as being rude. Your new associations might also help inspire some of the others to step up to new challenges.

If you have additional suggestions or comments on how to avoid getting stuck in the past, please feel free to comment and add to the discussion.

4. Explore your purpose.

How to avoid getting stuck in the past

By Patricia Harteneck, Ph.D.

It’s easy to get in a rut. Maybe you have goals but for some reason, you are not reaching for them. Maybe self-judgment is causing you to lower your expectations, or low self-worth is preventing you from making positive changes. You can also get stuck in worry, afraid to make a decision or change something in your life. Or maybe you’re disappointed with how a particular situation turned out, and it just feels too hard to move on.

When we get stuck, we often wait for external change to happen. But change doesn’t happen to us, it comes from within us. Change is scary and painful, but it’s also necessary for getting unstuck. And when that happens, many opportunities open up.

Try these seven strategies when you feel stuck:

1. Let go of the past.

Listen to the stories in your head. Are you thinking about events that happened in the past? Are you unable to forgive yourself for the mistakes you made? Are you blaming yourself or others for things that did not turn out the way you hoped? Ask yourself why you are stuck on these memories, and what you can do to live with them, accept them, and move forward. You can’t undo the past, but you can choose to find peace. Forgiving yourself or others is a way to let go and move on.

2. Change your perspective.

Once you release the grip of the past, you will see your reality in new ways and feel freer to change your attitude. To gain a new perspective, meditate or spend time alone and listen to your inner voice. If you can, travel or take a break from your daily routine to clear your mind and get distance from your current situation. Open yourself up to new people and ideas, and introduce regular physical activity into your routine. All of these changes will help you gain a new perspective on the future and what is possible.

3. Start with small changes.

Change stimulates different parts of the brain that improve creativity and clarity of mind. You can start small by changing your daily routines, moving things in your house, or making new friends. Every choice matters. You might be tempted to skip the little things because they don’t always seem important in the moment. But after a while, an accumulation of small changes will help you accomplish your goals, and you will start feeling unstuck.

4. Explore your purpose.

Your life purpose is not just your job, your responsibilities, or your goals—it’s what makes you feel alive. These are the things you are passionate about and will fight for. Examples of a life purpose could be:

  • Helping people overcome the sadness of being ill.
  • Helping others reach their full potential.
  • Growing as a human being.
  • Protecting animals who suffer.

You may need to change your life purpose if it no longer inspires you. Or, if you feel like you haven’t had a purpose, this is a great time to define it. Ask yourself the following questions as you consider your life purpose:

  • What makes me happy?
  • What were my favorite things to do in the past?
  • What are my favorite things to do now?
  • When do I enjoy myself so much or become so committed to something that I lose track of time?
  • Who inspires me the most, and why?
  • What makes me feel good about myself?
  • What am I good at?

5. Believe in yourself.

Trust that you can reach your expectations and get out of your comfort zone. Make a list of your strengths and positive traits, and remember that you are very capable. Many people sabotage their own progress—consciously or unconsciously—as a result of deep-seated fears and limiting beliefs.

The first step to believing in yourself is to recognize your self-doubt. Pay attention to the ways you react to situations. Then you can work to reframe your self-doubt. Limitations like, “I can’t” or “I don’t know” can be replaced with, “I can’t do that yet, but I’m working on it,” or “I don’t know now, but I will.” Another way to instill confidence in your abilities is to write down your past successes and keep the notes on hand when you need proof that you can do things that are challenging or new.

6. Practice being hopeful.

Maybe you have had a lot of disappointments that led to this moment in your life when you feel helpless. Maybe you are experiencing a naturally protective feeling of pessimism. This is something you will have to work to change. Find a practice, such as meditation, prayer, or reading inspirational books, and do it regularly. Hope is not a permanent state. You need to work at it every day.

7. Consider talking to a professional.

If you find that you are unable to change unhealthy thought patterns, consider consulting a mental health provider to help you figure out why you are stuck, and to find ways to get unstuck. Feeling stuck can be part of a mental health disorder that can be effectively treated with psychotherapy, medication, or a combination of the two; having professional support as you work to change long-established thinking patterns can be tremendously helpful. Sometimes asking for help can be the most hopeful and powerful step you can take.

LinkedIn Image Credit: Stokkete/Shutterstock

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How to avoid getting stuck in the past

Grow Your Business, Not Your Inbox

How to avoid getting stuck in the past

I’ve had a lot of sleepless nights. Nights when I was so worried about something that had happened in the past that I let it dictate my future. We’ve all been there at some point. You’re not alone.

I’m talking about those times when we just can’t shake the past. Whether it’s something small, like making a terrible first impression, or saying something you wish you hadn’t, to something big, like having to shutdown your business. Harping on negative experiences is painful and, when we hold on to that pain, we can’t move on to something more positive.

That’s why it’s important that you let it go and leave the past behind with these eight tactics.

1. Learn from the past but don’t dwell there.

Yes. Those negative experiences you had can actually be used for learning and future experiences — no matter how painful they are. Take some time to reflect on the experience and look at ways at it can actually benefit you down the road.

You can learn from your experiences by reflecting on these few simple questions:

  • What really happened? Answer only by confronting the facts.
  • What emotions do I feel? I personally like to write them down.
  • How can I use this to empower myself and my feelings?

After answering these questions, it’s time to move on. While reflecting on the past for a little bit of time is acceptable, dwelling on it will only keep those negative thoughts and feelings around.

2. Express yourself.

Don’t hesitate to get the pain you’re feeling off your chest. Whether it’s talking to the individual who has harmed you (or who you harmed), venting to a friend or writing it down, expressing your feelings can assist you in sorting out what, if anything, needs to be done to move on.

More importantly, it’s good for your health. Dr. Edmund Bourne, author of The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook, warns that holding onto your feelings leads to anxiety, depression, headache and high blood pressure.

Grief expert Gloria Horsley from OpentoHope says “When it’s time to express your feelings, make sure to use “I” messages. Describe the degree of your emotions, and share them with someone who will listen and not pass judgment. This will help you express the grief you’re going through.”

3. Stop pointing fingers.

Playing the role of the victim is easy and sometimes feels pretty good, especially compared with accepting the truth. The problem is, blaming others prevents you from going forward. Most often, pointing fingers is just complaining.

Life coach Ruchika Batra also adds on Pick the Brain that blaming others gives power to someone else and makes us small. Batra also says, “When we blame, we automatically enter the negative zone. We loathe someone else or some external factor because we were not able to mold life into our own favor.”

4. Focus on the present.

One of the most effective ways to let go of the past is to embrace the present. Instead of reliving the past and getting consumed with negativity, keep yourself active and enjoy the current moment. Learn a new skill. Meditate. Exercise. Have dinner with a friend. Make a new friend. Whatever it is, just live in the moment – even if it’s just sitting at your desk and watching the clouds roll by. I personally “cope” by building my business and the future of eCash. It motivates me and helps give me something to devote my life towards.

Living in the moment, also called mindfulness, “involves being with your thoughts as they are, neither grasping at them nor pushing them away.” Psychology Today states that “mindful people are happier, more exuberant, more empathetic, and more secure.”

To achieve a more mindful state, be aware of what you are thinking and feeling, reduce self-consciousness, seek out new experiences and accept your negative feelings and situations as merely being a part of life.

5. Disconnect for a while.

Allow yourself to take some time away so that you can clear your head. You don’t have to go backpacking through Europe. Just remove yourself from the situation by distancing yourself from the people, places and things that remind you of the past. Practicing ways to disconnect for a while will give you the chance to experience something positive — even if that’s just camping at a nearby campground without any access to social media.

When you return, you’ll have a perspective on the past.

6. Think about the people around you.

Take inventory of the people around you. Who is negative and always bringing you down? Who are the people associated with the past that you’re trying to move away from? You may need to move away from these individuals to find more positive people who will empower you.

There are more than enough ways to meet new people, such as attending local meetups and conferences. Don’t be shy. Get yourself out there and find a new group of friends and acquaintances who can help you move forward.

7. Forgive those who wronged you — including yourself.

If you’ve been hurt by someone, the last thing that you may want to do is forgive them. But, as Dr. Wayne Dyer says, “Forgiving others is essential for spiritual growth.” Dr. Dyer has 15 steps to help you forgive someone, like embracing the past while moving on, making a new agreement with yourself, not going to sleep angry and being kind and generous.

While you’re at it, forgive yourself. No one is perfect and we all make mistakes. Instead of kicking yourself for your past mistakes, cut yourself some slack and focus on the lessons that you’ve learned.

Once you’re not carrying that anger and resentment, you’ll be able to move on.

8. Make new memories.

Finally, start making new, positive memories to replace those negative memories from the past. Spend your time with the people who make you happy, the things that bring you joy and in the places that bring you peace. Making new memories is better being stuck in the past.

In fact, it’s been discovered by scientists that having too many old memories makes it more difficult to make new memories. So, out with the old and in with the new.