Written by Dr. Eric Perry
“There’s an important difference between giving up and letting go.” ~Jessica Hatchigan
1. Recognize that we have a choice
Whenever we get stuck in the past, most likely it is because we are being bombarded by intrusive thoughts. These intrusions appear as regret, anger, hatred, resentment or sadness. When we get caught by this web of negativity, it is extremely difficult to remember that we have a choice. We can choose to break free from this cycle by realizing that each thought has an energetic value. Negative thoughts chain us to past memories only to weaken us.
2. Understand why we hold on
Dwelling on the past can actually feel good to us. Hating someone because they wronged us can feel very satisfying because we feel like we are getting back at them through hatred. In reality, we are the ones adding to our own suffering. We hold on to the past because we find comfort in what is familiar. If we are content in holding on then most likely it is because at least it is consistent. We need to recognize that holding on to the past only keeps us stuck. Your most beautiful life is waiting.
3. Focus on now
It is important to bring yourself to right now, even as you read these words. Pause for a moment. Look around you. Notice the colors that you see in the room. What shapes do you see? A strategy that is commonly used for people with PTSD is to look at the details around them. By doing this, they can shift their focus away from the bombardment of thoughts. You can use this strategy anytime you feel like your thoughts are taking over. You can also imagine a safe place in your mind. My personal favorite is to imagine that I am sitting on an airplane with all of the windows shades down. It is peaceful, and I am enjoying a movie; most likely a thriller or comedy.
4. Get rid of the reminders
Anything that re-triggers you to think about the past needs to go. Lock it up, throw it out or set it on fire. There is no need to keep these reminders. It is common that we unknowingly keep reminders around us. Take a few moments to study your space. Do you have reminders around you that re-trigger you to thinking about the past?
5. Redirect to something productive
One of my favorite concepts is sublimation. My basic definition of sublimation is to take some negative feeling and turn it into some positive action. If you are feeling angry, channel that energy into extra sets at the gym or an extra mile on your run. If you are feeling sad, go out of your way to lift someone else up. If you stay where you are, you can’t go anywhere else. We need to keep moving! Good luck!
The thoughts expressed in this blog post are my own and are not meant to create a therapeutic relationship with the reader. This blog does not replace or substitute the help of a mental health professional. Please note, I am unable to answer your specific mental health questions as I am not fully aware of all of the circumstances.
Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology
M.A. in Clinical Psychology
B.A. in Psychology
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