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Stuck in the Past

Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

Why do some of us get stuck living in the past? Many of us live with regret, guilt, and resentment which often relate to past choices or circumstances that we've been unable to let go. We get consumed with mistakes or negative situations that take up space in our head and sometimes incapacitate us. It could be a bad financial decision or relationship choice. Or we may have lost something or someone very important to us and haven't been able to work through it. Sometimes remaining stuck in our emotional pain prevents us from moving forward and healing. We fear letting go of the pain because we anticipate more pain occurring and want some control over the situation. Some of us can't let go because we haven't forgiven someone who wronged us or we want that person to suffer guilt before we release the negative emotions. Time can help the process to some extent, but we ultimately need to confront the pain and choose to let it go, even if the other person hasn't taken responsibility for causing it. Our decision to work on releasing the pain will set us free so that we are no longer a prisoner to the pain.

Some of us learned early on in our lives to hold a grudge so that we can't be hurt again. Or we lack trust in others so we never let go of the pain memory. Unfortunately, the negative emotions that we harbor can do more damage than the people who hurt us. Other times we hang onto to pain or decide to inflict more pain onto ourselves. We convince ourselves that hanging onto all of the self-inflicted anger, guilt, and shame serves a purpose to prevent future mistakes. However, beating ourselves up can negatively impact our self-esteem which may put us at greater risk for making future bad choices. Negative and destructive self-talk will only perpetuate self-loathing. Our worst enemy is often ourselves. What can we do to get unstuck?

Of course, the first step is to acknowledge that you are stuck and become motivated to make changes. Secondly, and this can be difficult, forgiveness of others and/or yourself is going to be required to move forward. You can write it, express it verbally, and/or pray it out. Sometimes it helps to try to understand why people say or do hurtful things. They may be hurting or struggling with their own emotional conflicts and insecurities. In some cases we need to apologize to others, recognize our own wrongdoing, and work on doing a better job at communicating respectfully and kindly. Even if we decide to limit our connection to someone who has hurt us in the past we can still let go of the pain and interact with them civilly. Bitterness and resentment are cancers that can destroy our soul and eat away at our ability to be compassionate with others and ourselves. Remember that our inability to forgive others translates into our inability to forgive ourselves. Recognize that hanging unto the past keeps it in the present. Decide today not to waste any more time harboring bad feelings from the past. Instead, leave your past behind and give yourself the gift of forgiveness.

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