In my experience as a therapist, I’ve learned that a lot of people struggle with negative thoughts and feelings that not only hold them back but wear them down, make them ill, angry, depressed and sad, and prevent them from living a life of joy. The past is in the past – and you DO know this, even though you might ignore the fact that what happened last week, last year, or ten years before should be ousted from your mind right now. You still cling on to it and keep the negative loop playing over and over in your mind, calling up the hurt and suffering, effectively recycling emotional pain day in, day out. I call it ‘the Negative Four Rs of emotional pain: Re-thinking, Re-living, Re-feeling, Re-cycling.
Why do you do this to yourself?
Because your subconscious has no clock! The reason why emotional pain still affects you even though years may have passed is because your subconscious has NO concept of time. The clock isn’t even broken – it was never working in the first place. Whatever you are feeling at any given time is what your subconscious is picking up on, from the day you are born until the day you move on from this life. If those feelings are heavy, painful, negative emotions, they will bring you down as surely as a blow to the head with a blunt object would.
Why are you recycling emotional pain? And what can you do about it?
Have you ever asked yourself why you hold onto a painful memory? Not why it’s painful, as I am sure the reasons were bona-fide and real at the time they happened. But now, today, what purpose does it serve in your life, right here, right now, to keep hitting the replay button in your mind?
Ask yourself outright:
- Why am I recycling this pain?
- Do I need to hold onto this memory?
- Do I believe I need to hold onto it?
- If your answer is yes, that you need to hold onto it, ask yourself why?
- What good is it doing me now?
- What part of me wants to hold on to it?
What has happened to you (no matter how ugly it might have been) does NOT define who YOU are.
Get clear on these questions and your answers to them. Sometimes, negative memories can serve as a lopsided catalyst for defining who we think we are.
What is important to understand is this: what has happened to you (no matter how ugly it might have been) does NOT define who YOU are. You are still a perfect human being in spite of all the bad things that have happened to you in your life. You are not a victim. You are not undeserving. You are not a bad person just because X, Y or Z happened to you. It is NOT your fault. And if it really WAS your fault, forgive yourself. You are human. We all are; we all make mistakes. And we all deserve forgiveness.
How to let go of your emotional pain…
Having asked yourself those all-important questions, you now realize that you are carrying around unnecessary baggage from the past that is needlessly hurting you.
So, tell yourself right now, today is the day you are going to let go and move on! You are not going to wallow in self-pity, self-loathing or self-derogation any more. You know that saying ‘Enough is enough’? Say it to yourself now. And mean it. Then get ready to let go and move on! Once you realize the past is truly in the past, that it does not need to hold you back if you are willing to ‘Let go, let God’ (or whatever you deem as your ‘higher power’)… you can free yourself from so much negative baggage that simply does not serve you anymore. In any way.
Releasing & letting go of your past is incredibly liberating. When you truly realize all that matters is now, this very moment, EVERY moment, you can find a totally new sense of freedom within. I believe that truly letting go, along with forgiving yourself and others for all past perceived or real transgressions, are two of the most important components of living your life the way the Divine Creator intended you to live.
Now for the exercise to rid you of that unwanted baggage! Get yourself settled somewhere comfy, when you know you will not be disturbed.
- Imagine the vessel is close up to you, with an easy means of access… a plank… a ladder… whatever you feel works best.
- Now, take the painful memory and imagine it could have physical form… what would it be? What size? What colour? What sound would it make? Is it inanimate or alive, living and breathing?
- Take some time to really give this memory as much colour, shape and texture as you can. If it feels right, you can even turn it into a wild, raging beast.
- When you have the image very clearly defined, pour every last ounce of anger, pain, resentment, depression or whatever emotion it holds for you… into the beast that represents your pain.
- Imagine you are standing upright, tall and strong, feeling immensely powerful. Look squarely at the ‘beast’ of your emotional pain and say out loud: “Enough is enough! I have no need of you in my life any more. You have outstayed your welcome. Thank you for what you did way back then. But now it’s time for you to go. It’s time for ME to let go and move on.”
- Take a deep breath and say out loud: “I release you.”
- COMMAND the beast to get on the vessel. Do NOT take no for an answer. You are the boss. You are in control.
- Watch until the ‘beast’ has boarded the vessel. Watch it settle down on the vessel. Watch it shrink.
- Command the vessel to sail away. Watch it sail away… keep watching until it is on the horizon, far away. Watch it disappear over the horizon until you can no longer see it.
- Take a deep breath in for 5, and let it out for five.
- Then, go and dance in the sand or the grass or on whatever earth is beneath your feet. Feel the sense of freedom within. Feel who you truly are. Think of all the things in life that make you wondrously happy and bask in those memories now, for as long as you care to.
- When you’re done, open your eyes and gently return to your surroundings. You will feel incredible!
Now many people who do this find it to be a powerful exercise that can be used time and again to rid yourself of negative thoughts, feelings and memories. Always finish the exercise by calling to mind feelings of joy and genuine happiness in your life.