I’m going to go out on a limb and assume that you have now heard of Frozen and the song “Let It Go” sung by none other than Queen Elsa herself.
I apologize if my mom status is putting blinders on me for this one, so in the event, you aren’t quoting every single line of Frozen as I can, I apologize and I’ll quickly fill you in on what I mean.
As most of us know from the movie, Elsa goes to the mountains and finally just lets. it. go. She creates a freakin’ winter wonderland castle, she lets it go so much. After concealing her sadness after losing her parents and the struggles of her isolation, Elsa has a lot of pent-up emotion to release. When she is finally alone, she just lets all of it go and allows herself to create whatever she allows herself to.
You aren’t reading this to learn about current Disney movies but we can all learn a lesson from Elsa.
When we do not allow ourselves to feel our emotions or hold on to hurtful events, we end up harming ourselves more. Elsa was afraid of hurting someone so she conditioned herself to hide her emotions altogether and become unreachable but, at some point, that facade will falter. When that facade does crumble, you run the risk of an avalanche of emotions.
Letting go involves more than just letting go of a past event. If it were that easy, I wouldn’t be writing this post.
Learning how to let go of the past will be an active one and might not come overnight, depending on what you’re trying to let go of.
It’s easy for someone to just tell you to let go of a painful break-up or a painful childhood memory but it’s another thing to have to work through it.
Strategies You Need to Let Go of the Past
- Accept what happened
Acceptance is always the first step. You don’t have to agree with what happened or like what happened but it is important to realize exactly what it is that happened.
This means looking at the event with a very cut and dry approach. In the example of abuse, acceptance is saying that you were abused as a child rather than saying some bad things happened in my childhood.
If you are struggling to accept consequences from your own actions, acceptance means accepting your role in the event and taking responsibility. For example, accepting that you said some hurtful words that damaged a relationship rather than ignoring the other person’s pain or what you said.
- Understand your emotions
Did what happened in your past make you feel angry or sad? Maybe disappointed? Recognize what emotions, or emotions, came along with that event and let yourself feel them in their raw forms.
Let them out however you feel necessary. Talk to a friend who will understand or release them through a creative outlet. Sometimes all you can do is just sit there and let your emotions come as they may while you are thinking.
Acknowledge their presence and then keep moving forward. It is okay to feel but try not to get stuck on one certain feeling. You can’t let go of something if you don’t recognize how it made you feel.
Going back to the example of Elsa, when she was in her castle, all alone, she ruminated. Rumination is the process of going over and over negative emotions or events and you will drive yourself crazy by doing it. She didn’t allow her emotions to come and go, she just invited them in and they stayed there causing her to grow even more bitter and isolated.
- Practice forgiveness
Ah, this is always easier said than done but it is so important when letting go. You cannot still be holding onto resentments and completely let go of the past. It’s almost an oxymoron. Forgiving someone, or even yourself, does not mean you are condoning or agreeing with the situation or the choices that were made. It means that you have let go of the anger you have built up that is causing damage in YOUR life.
Forgiveness is an active process. It might mean calling the person who wronged you up and telling them that you forgive them for XYZ or it might be more appropriate, or necessary, to just come to an understanding with yourself that you are no longer going to allow space in your mind for this person’s hurtful decisions. Once you have forgiven, your mind will become much lighter.
- Focus on the present and look forward to the future
Maybe what happened to you caused a series of misfortunes to happen in your life but what has happened cannot be changed.
Right now, in the present moment, you are already making a positive change in your life. You have realized that you need to let go of something in your past because it is holding you back. You have already taken the first step!
It is easy to only see the negative or struggles in life because they have so much of an effect on our lives. Maybe nothing good at all came from your past but something good can come of your future. What is something you can do to improve the present moment? Think about ways to improve your life and situation or look ahead to events that may be upcoming that you are excited about. Find a new book to read or a new group to participate in. Develop a new hobby!
It’s hard to let go of the past.
It is hard to accept how someone has hurt you or how you may have hurt someone else but it is an important part of life. We can’t allow ourselves to go through life expecting that nothing bad will ever happen, that we will never hurt another person, or that no one will ever hurt us. Forgiveness is hard and can be messy but once you forgive, you’re halfway there on learning how to let go of the past.
It is okay to feel wronged and these strategies are all a process, it may not happen overnight for you, or it may. All of these are okay because letting go of the past is a form of healing and we all heal at different rates.
Please leave me a comment if you have ideas on letting go of the past either on here or on Facebook!
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