Do you still think about something that happened ten years ago? That person that really hurt you? That moment in time when it felt like your life somehow went wrong?
People hold onto pain for a number of reasons. One reason is that holding onto it reminds them that the hurt is justified. There's only one problem with this: holding onto pain from the past keeps pain in your present. This creates further suffering as the knife that once cut deep, continues to wound with every re-enactment. However justified the pain was, I want to ask you a question. Do you want something from the past to still hurt you today? There are some very good reasons to let it go.
Studies indicate that chronic anger may lead to heart disease; angry outbursts to increased cardiovascular events; carrying anger may increase your likelihood of developing type 2 diabetes, increase your calorie intake and make you more likely to smoke. Holding onto grudges increases stress. Stress is linked to many chronic diseases, can interfere with your sleep cycle, may make you gain weight and age you faster that your more peaceful peers. I think you’ll agree- it’s time to let go and move on.
How to Let Go
Firstly, you need to make a strong decision to let go. Letting go and moving on from the rude checkout assistant who stole your good mood is relatively easy- once you’ve done it, that person may never cross your mind again. Letting go and moving on from your ex-husband (wife or partner) who you feel ruined your life, is harder. Shared history means multiple opportunities for painful memories to rise. Having children or common interests may increase the likelihood of past hurt continuing to dig deep in your present. Letting go in these situations realistically means doing so multiple times until the pain associated with that person or event has past.
Once you have made your strong decision, take some quiet time. Sit and let’s soul search. What kind of person do you want to be? Visualise, think and feel. Take long enough to understand how that person behaves in hurtful situations. When someone is rude, cut up in traffic or deeply hurt, what do they do? how do they react?
Once you know, let’s identify what inner emotion is allows them to act this way. Is it grace? Courage? Dignity? Confidence? Something else? Take your time and capture 1-3 words. Once you have, ask yourself, are these 1-3 words the qualities that will lift my behaviours from where they are to where I want to be? If so, great. If not, ask yourself which emotion would. Capture this. Once you have your 1-3 emotions, let’s work them.
Sitting quietly, repeat out loud:
“I let go with …..... (insert your 1-3 words here, e.g. grace)
I move on with …..... (e.g. grace)”
Repeat until you start to feel lifted and moving towards the person you want to be. When you feel good, smile. Those positive qualities are working.
This process is a start and it's not a magic one pill wonder. Repeat this exercise anytime painful memories arise, you’re offended, or anytime you realise you're holding something painful or negative. Each time you do, you flex your mental and emotional letting go muscle and move forward to greater health, wellbeing and peace. If you find letting go hard, seek professional help. This is your life and you deserve to live it, really live it!
* this article originally appeared in issue April 17 of Peninsula Living and North Shore Living