5 Tips to Let Go of Past Burdens

The new year is here and with it, 365 new days of hope, 365 new beginnings, new opportunities and new intentions. None of those will make you happy, though, if you keep on living in the past and regretting whatever was. Where are you? Are you there, are you here or are you some time in the future? If you are in the past, chances are it is because of some burdens you just can’t rid yourself of. Those burdens could take the shape of regrets, pains, grudges or even betrayals. Let me give you 5 tips that might help you refocus them and set you free at last.

Please, consider the following ideas when feeling bad about something in your past:

  1. The past can’t be changed. This might sound obvious to you but let me ask you again, is it truly so? Do you actually accept that the past can’t be changed, no matter how hard you try? If you do, why do you insist revisiting it and going over each minute detail in an attempt to find new understandings or new interpretations? Even if you did, how would that help? You can’t change it!
  2. You did it the best you could and knew how to. When looking back, most of us seem to find the perfect solution or a better way to do things. We often chastise ourselves for not having found the right answer on the spot. But judging ourselves by applying what we know today to events in the past is not only unfair but also useless. We know so much more today! We look back and think we could (and should) have known better but that’s because we have much more information today. Look back and really revise the situation based on the knowledge you actually had back then. I’m sure you did your best. I’m also sure there were circumstances then that led you to thinking that what you were doing was the right choice. I don’t know anybody who’d choose the wrong option willingly, unless there was an ulterior motive for it, in which case, the choice wouldn’t be wrong to begin with. So do yourself a favor and stop judging your past you and your past actions based on your current you and your current knowledge. It won’t change the past either!
  3. People act for two reasons: to avoid pain or to obtain pleasure. All of us do. Think about any situation bearing this idea in mind and you’ll see how it always rings true. Ask yourself then, what pain were you trying to avoid or what pleasure were you trying to obtain. Ask yourself about the motives behind your actions. Understand your younger you from this perspective. And then ponder about it regarding any other person involved in the event, if there happened to be any. What were they trying to avoid or obtain?
  4. Others also do it the best they can and know how to. You’re not the only one who tries to do things right to the best of your knowledge. Everybody does. When others acted in the past, they were trying to avoid some kind of pain or obtain some kind of pleasure, to the best of their knowledge. As you’re not them, you can’t really know what led them there or why they chose to act the way they did. Accepting that they were trying their best, though, might help you understand that they were not there just to hurt you. Even if they did. They decided to the best of their capacities back then. For example, imagine that I blame an old teacher for having hurt me by making fun of me in front of my classmates. Today I might understand that she was trying to help me change behaviors or learn a certain lesson. She didn’t know how to do it any other way. That her actions resulted in my feeling isolated in school is another story that has more to do with my own interpretations. But the original action, the teacher making fun of me, can only be properly understood if reviewed through the glasses of the past and not from today’s perspectives. A lot of progress has been made in the world of education and no teacher would react today the way that teacher did back then. But back then, she was doing it the best she knew how to.
  5. What did you learn and how can you use it today? When somebody finally decides that the past can’t be changed and chooses to learn from it and move on, accepting whatever lesson the event taught them, the burden falls off their shoulders and they are set free. This is the real trick to moving on. Look for the lesson in the event. Stop questioning it as to the hows, whys and what fors and instead look for the lesson it offered you. How can that lesson help you now? What new tool or perspective did it give you then that can still be used today? Once you find it, thank the past for teaching you that particular lesson. That gratitude is the magical key that will open the door to a present free from the heavy burden.
  6. Forgive yourself. This 6th tip is a gift to you. I don’t include it it in the 5 original ones because some of you might not be able to use it but here it goes. Forgive yourself for what you did based on having done it on your best judgement and knowledge. And forgive yourself as well for not having let go of the burden yet, for having allowed yourself so much suffering over the years. At the end of the day, who suffers but you?

Challenge your past memories by using those five (or six) ideas and see how you feel about them then. And if you still want more, check my book What Story do You Tell Yourself? for further tips and ideas 🙂

In the meanwhile, enjoy life, ALL of it,

Jessica J. Lockhart – humanology – www.jessicajlockhart.com

Jessica J. Lockhart is a humanologist, bestselling author and renowned international speaker. Follow her here:
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