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Holding on to your past hurts from others can be toxic.
Trust me, I know from experience.
When you have been hurt, or wronged, or taken advantage of, it tends to stick with you. I don’t know about you, but for me, it causes me to ruminate about it (thinking about it constantly in different ways) and worry about it (worrying about the past – what about me made this happen?, present – am I good enough? and future – will it happen again?) incessantly.
So I know how important it is to let go of the things that have hurt us.
But it’s not easy.
In fact, it can be one of the hardest things to do. It takes us being vulnerable with ourselves and others. It takes forgiveness and faith in ourselves that we are good enough. It takes patience and kindness.
In summary, it takes a WHOLE lot to let go of pain.
So I wanted to help you a little bit. It’s not going to cure it, but it will give you a framework to walk through the act of letting go, the act of forgiving, the act of MOVING ON so that you can focus on YOU rather than the past.
Here are 5 steps to releasing your past hurts.
1. Acknowledge the hurts.
Oftentimes the reasons why things stay with us the longest is because we do not acknowledge the way that they made us feel. For example, I had a few very good friends not even tell me they weren’t going to come to my wedding (these were very good friends, who I wouldn’t even have questioned would come, and I found out through the reply card in the mail – not through a phone call or even a text, and one didn’t even reply). I was so angry. Really angry. And I held on to it for a long time (a year at least – and I know that’s not a long time in the grand scheme of life, but it felt like a long time to me for this particular hurt) But when I looked at the anger, what was really beneath it, was hurt. It made me feel like I wasn’t liked (which of course is a really hard thing to feel, especially when friendships was already something I was sensitive about). It was fear of disconnection (and for someone who’s 3 main core desired feelings includes CONNECTED) this one hurt the most. It’s important to acknowledging the real pain beneath, not the anger which tends to mask the pain.
2. Give them space.
This is really hard to do and super intimidating, but just FEEL the hurt. Just sit with it for awhile. Let it sink in. Let it know that it is valid. We often try to push our feelings away, tell ourselves that we should not feel a certain way, but that just allows those feelings to grow, eat away at us, bring us down. Giving our hurts space, allows us to feel validated and when we feel validated it makes it easier to then move forward and release those feelings and hurts.
3. Communicate your feelings.
I encourage you to talk with the person about it. This can be super scary because you have to be vulnerable and vulnerability is freakin HARD to do a lot of the time (I wanted to write sometimes there, but had to be honest with myself, it’s hard a LOT of the time, not just sometimes). It can be “unsafe” because you don’t know how the person will react to or accept your pain. They may try to argue against it. They may be super defensive. Or they may just absorb it and apologize. They may feel your hurt. No matter if they knew of it or not, this is a big step. And if you cannot talk to the person about it, write them a letter. It doesn’t mean you have to send it (but I encourage you, if you can, do it – and by can I mean, if you know their address or email address), but just get your feelings out on paper (or on the computer, but I do encourage you to write it – there is something special and releasing about expressing yourself on paper).
4. Release it.
Big step. Let it go. Create some sort of ritual where you let it go. Maybe you do some deep breathing around the mantra of let it go or release (this one can be really powerful – I encourage you to continue the deep breathing for as long as you can physically feel it let go from your body, because you WILL feel this). Maybe you write it on a piece of paper and throw it into a fire. Or put it into a balloon and release it into the sky (although I’m so not for littering – so maybe they have biodegradable balloons these days or something that won’t hurt a bird or land in the ocean). Whatever resonates for you, do it. Take the time and do it. Set aside a special time for you to be intentional about your release.
5. Replace it.
Brainstorm what you can do that will be the opposite of how the past hurt made you feel. For example, my earlier example made me feel disconnected. So I made it a point to feel connected. It doesn’t mean I have to feel connected with the person(s) that hurt me, but feel connected with another. Truly connected. This meant reaching out and spending more time with people that I knew DID value me. Choose to spend your time focusing on the feelings that you want to feel rather than sticking with the feelings that you did NOT want to feel. Replace those feelings, counteract those feelings, CHALLENGE those feelings with good ones. That is why I make this the last step, because acknowledging and feeling your feelings is such a crucial step to the releasing process. Often we skip to this step and try to cover up our feelings with good feelings, which only serves to mask the hurt. This has to be the last step, after the acknowledging, feeling, communicating, and releasing.
This is explored extensively in the fifth module, Release, of my course, Deserve to Thrive (learn more below). Through targeted questioning, I help you discover your past hurts/experiences/stories and limiting beliefs/schemas and take you through a step-by-step in depth process of letting them go and replacing them with more meaningful and life-giving beliefs/stories.
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