10 Smart Choices to Heal the Pain of Your Past

heal pain past

Where the heart is willing, it will find a thousand ways. Where it is unwilling, it will find a thousand excuses.

– Arlen Price

If your past still plagues you, it will show in stressful relationships, squashed dreams, a distorted view of yourself, and everyday sadness and frustration.

What an unhappy, limiting way to live!

What I can tell you is this: it is absolutely possible to no longer be affected by your past. That doesn’t mean memories disappear or you never feel emotions again. It means that you make a choice to support your own happiness, to free yourself from the trap of challenging thoughts and feelings.

Healing happens when you’re willing to see how you’re stuck, and you do whatever it takes to be free. That’s the first smart choice that lights the inner fire for ending this unnecessary pain.

And you can make it over and over, in any moment.

This I know from personal experience. For many years, I had a challenging relationship with my parents that was filled with anger and conflict. In a moment, I saw that the one who was hurting most from this disharmony was me. I wanted happiness more than anything and discovered the way to be completely free – which I am thrilled to share with you.

Ready for more? Consider these 10 smart choices to heal the pain of the past. And here’s what’s amazing: they’re always available to you. You don’t have to do anything or go anywhere. They’re right here waiting to show you the way to your lovely, vibrant, magnificent self.

1. Get fed up.

You’ve probably been gripped by your reactions to past events for a long time. So it will take your focus and pure intention to engage in this process of healing.

How to keep it going? Get fed up. Be thoroughly sick of the emotional pain, the discord in your relationships, and the half life you are living. Vow to see your way to freedom.

2. Give up the victim role.

If you’re stuck in stories from the past, you will see yourself as the victim. Here are some clues:

  • They shouldn’t have…
  • If only it had been different.
  • It’s his (or her) fault.
  • I’ve been damaged by others.

This mindset does not serve your happiness. Replace it with openness, curiosity, and the willingness to see things in a new and fresh way. Take full responsibility for your happiness.

3. Be willing to shed old identities.

An identity is a fixed idea that you think describes who you are. If you’ve been living in the pain from your past, you might see yourself as wounded, needy, lacking, or broken. You might think you’re incompetent or that you need to prove yourself or that you’ll always be sad.

All of these identities limit you from seeing your natural brilliance. It’s like you’re looking at yourself through a window covered in smudges.

Be open to shedding these identities, to clearing away the smudges. See yourself as you actually are, not how your conclusions from your past experiences tell you you are.

Now you’re out of your own way, and unchained from your past. No longer needing to figure it all out, you’re available to the natural unfolding of the flow of life.

4. Neutralize the story.

If you are stuck in pain about the past, you are repeating the story of what happened in your mind and taking it to be true.

These stories don’t serve, as I’m sure you already know. Take a breath, and find a place of neutral, friendly aware presence that is beyond the story. Lose interest in this thinking so you can free your own mind and heart.

Keep saying “no” to the storyline, and it begins to lose its power.

5. Learn the intelligent approach to emotions.

Avoiding your emotions with compulsive behaviors or indulging them with drama don’t support the discovery of your natural wholeness.

Instead, let the story go, and you will discover that your emotions live in your body. Find the place of the deepest love and acceptance in you and allow these physical sensations the space to be.

Any time the story grabs you, return to meeting what’s happening in your body with the most tender heart. Keep doing this whenever your emotions have grabbed you. Because love wins every time.

6. Don’t know.

When you’re caught in reactions from the past, your whole world view is limited and inflexible. And when you’re no longer stuck, you’ve just entered the unknown where anything can happen.

When you feel a familiar reaction arising, stop and don’t know. Don’t know what you’re going to do next. Don’t know how to be in the world. Don’t know how you’re supposed to feel.

Let your mind be open like the sky and imagine your body free of familiar tensions. Be a blank slate for a fresh, unfamiliar, spontaneous way of being. See yourself and others with fresh eyes.

7. Be realistic about what healing is – and isn’t.

Healing from the pain of the past doesn’t mean your memories are erased or that you’ll never have those difficult feelings again.

It does mean that when these experiences visit you, they don’t get to be in charge. They stop defining you. They no longer direct your actions.

When a memory or emotion appears – and it will, don’t touch it. Don’t feed it with your attention, and it will float on through like a cloud in the sky.

This is real, effortless freedom. Any experience can arise, but you remain stable, undisturbed, free of its influence.

8. Forget forgiveness.

Forget forgiveness? Yes, you heard it right.

Forgiveness of others may happen, but for now you need to focus on yourself. Discover in every moment how attachment to thoughts and feelings makes you unhappy. Then let these go for your own well being.

Some of your thoughts may have to do with regret about your own actions. Lovingly meet the feelings of guilt and shame, and know that you are so much bigger than them. Wherever you are stuck, keep at it to find your way to peace.

9. See through the beliefs that keep you stuck.

If the process of healing hits a roadblock, you may hold some hidden beliefs that are hijacking your happiness. Consider these:

  • I feel justified in staying stuck because I was wronged.
  • They did it. It’s their responsibility to make this better for me.
  • If I let go, I’m approving others’ bad behavior.
  • I need an apology.
  • It was so bad that it’s not possible for me to heal.

These beliefs have only one purpose – to keep you a victim of your past. Identify them, see them as unhelpful, then reconnect with your truest heart’s desire for peace.

10. Live fully now.

The past is gone. And if it’s still a problem, that problem is happening now, in this present moment.

You can’t rewrite the past, but you can absolutely learn to relate to it differently so that you’re no longer triggered. After all, the “problem” is actually some thoughts and emotions. These may arise, but they can’t touch the vastness of your shining presence.

Live only according to what’s true, and let the rest go. Put aside any self-imposed limits. You’ll be amazed by the potential for happiness and fulfillment that’s been here all along – once you’re free from the pain of your past.

Have you been able to heal from your past? Where are you stuck? I’d love to hear – please share in the comments.

Photo by Magdalena Roeseler

75 thoughts on “10 Smart Choices to Heal the Pain of Your Past”

  1. This post was amazing , it was nice to read and I could relate to the entire post. I’m trying to heal from my past ,I know it s going to time for me , to completely believe and trust that I will be the at my best ..just being me but I really feel incourage by this kind of post .

    1. Hi Kaybee,

      It probably will take some time, but if you stay at it and really want to heal, you will find that you can leave the past behind you. Then you live your full lovely self that has always been whole and complete.

    2. I am also trying to heal from my past. I have a lot of resentment towards my parents. I don’t know how to let go and I feel hopeless. My parents are the same and I do not trust them

    3. I currently suffer
      from depression and anxiety. I am trying to heal from my past and I can’t be in a serious relationship because I am terrified of letting a man get close to me. I’ve tried but I keep running.

  2. I think this is a very wise and useful post for everyone since we all struggle with issues from our past. I’ve signed up for your blog and look forward to reading your book when it comes out!

    1. That’s great to hear, Ed! I’m so happy that this post resonated for you. It’s so freeing to realize that we don’t have to be a victim of the past. We can intelligently meet our struggles – and move forward without being weighed down by them.

  3. This is what I am struggling with right now. To let go of the love I never going to get from my mother or being treated as equal from my siblings. I find this so hard and find myself running in circles. Still trying to be loved by them and approved. I won’t go in details , but I had a rough childhood to put it midly. (Some of them is criminal what my mother did to me and put me through) Even though I am now an adult they (my siblings and my mother) still treat me like a little child. Bullying me. You might have heard of Narcissists, sosiopaths and histronics? In these family behavioural-patterns everyone has to keep into their’ role. Mine is the scapegoat and being others helper. They still look down on me, treat me like dirt, use and abuse me and refuse to see that it is a problem. I am running in these never-ending circles trying to be loved, making them see. I am stuck in that fight to be treated as equal and be approved and loved. I guess I done that my whole life. Trying to fit in and changed to make people love me. Thanks, I really needed this article.

    1. I totally understand you!! I’m in a very similar situation! I too have started to remind myself that my family is never going to be who I want them to be or give me what I need and to just accept, it is what it is, and stop trying so hard to make it different when nobody else is, and move on! 😃

      1. Hi Char,

        I love this acceptance that you are coming to. Yes, go ahead and grieve the idea of that perfect family so you can see things realistically. When you really know that you’re not going to get what you want from them, intelligence takes over and you are ripe to stop trying. Then you’re free to move forward in deep connection to yourself and what you really want.

      2. Thanks, Char. Glad to see I’m not alone. Yes, you are so right. Stop trying so hard and move on. I can’t help but thinking of that prayer used by AA. Don’t remember the words. Yes, let’s stop trying and let go. Thanks.

    2. There is so much insight in your comment, Heather! And I hear how you – and the others in your family – have been playing out their roles. It’s so painful!

      There is only one way to get unstuck – and it isn’t by waiting for others to give you the love you’ve been longing for or to start treating you better. If that were going to work, you’d surely know it by now. You start to get unstuck by making the decision within yourself to do what it takes to be free and happy.

      Be empowered to start making choices that support your happiness and well being. What do you want? What is OK, and not OK? Be clear about where you stand and find the courage within you to speak your truth. There’s a whole, lovely world out there, and it’s waiting for your beautiful, authentic self.

    3. Hi Heather,

      What you have been through is horrifying and I can totally relate on how hard it must feel for you to leave and to stop expecting them to love you especially because you want to have it from your parents.

      I have been in a very dysfunctional relationship with my parents and I stayed far too long because I just thought that they would eventually change.

      It needed the last abuse I have experienced lately which led me to a solid decision to leave because I am worried that no matter what i do to fix it and to make my father understand that what he did was wrong, he would not change and I will have more regret for allowing it for too long.

      I hope there will be a time when you feel enough is enough and have the courage and the financial means to leave.

      I also hope you understand that the longer you stay and tolerate them, the more possibility that you will resent yourself for allowing it to happen and this can be a long process of forgiving.

      I pray for your strength.

  4. In think it is slowly happening for me . Or lessened to something
    called approval dependence what abusive people do is try to but this into your
    subconscious so your acting way below your abilities . But i think that your blog hear
    will help with that .Thank’s Donald reed

    1. Thanks so much for your comment, Donald. When we grow up in an abusive situation, we develop mindsets about ourselves and the world that are out of conscious awareness. And for some of us, we become dependent on approval from others.

      It’s beautiful to know that it’s entirely possible to realize how we hold ourselves back and choose differently. I wish you well in your healing.

  5. Gail:

    I have been healing from my past. It is a relief to take control of thought patterns with which I had bedeviled myself. My favorite of your suggestion was to “Don’t know.”

    You can’t react negatively when you acknowledge that you don’t know what to do. Suddenly, you are liberated to figure what to do rather than merely mimic a previous pattern of behavior.

    1. Hi Dave,

      Yes, it is such a great relief to realize that we can take control of thought patterns! And one of the ways to do that is to not know. I love that you see the beauty of entering a situation without knowing what to do. Now you are flexible and free, able to see things clearly without looking through the veil of the past.

  6. Hi thanks for such a very motivating post. Number 3 enlightened me a lot, that these old identities limit us from seeing our natural brilliance. Great article. Thanks for sharing. :)

    1. Hi Sherill,

      #3 is key because it gets to the heart of the problem. We unconsciously take on identities from the past. But these are limiting – not who we really are. Seeing and shedding them lets us be our full, beautiful, brilliant selves.

  7. Sometimes we don’t see that we have made ourselves into victims until someone starts treating us like one! That was my moment of clarity earlier this year. I am slowly emerging from some trauma from three years ago. Each month of May is hard, and it involves flashbacks and seemingly unsympathetic people in my life. But you know what? They probably just don’t know how to deal. I’ve realised this last May that I CAN control my emotions and emerge feeling like a freaking superhero! I survived! I’m here! And I’m awesome!

    Thank you so much for this post. I especially loved point 3. Because in my guilt at not achieving point 10 I realised I was not being my true self! Point 3 is what I will be working on especially.

    Bless you.

    1. Thank you so much for posting this comment, Michelle. It helps everyone to hear from someone who has been through hard times and come out the other side. Yes, you can work with your emotions so they don’t overtake you, and you can understand how your thinking sabotages you. And when you’re persistent, the way you relate to your past experiences will change.

      And what changes? You stop seeing yourself the same way. The old identity of one who was wounded or not good enough falls away, and here you are shining, whole, brilliant, perfectly capable of happiness and peace.

  8. I really like what was said about being willing to shed old identities. I help families afford college. The biggest challenge I face when working with people is helping them to change their story about their lives and why the deserve scholarships.

    1. Hi Crystal,

      So you know first-hand the power of stories – and the ones that limit us ripple out with all kinds of effects on our lives. What beautiful work you do to get right to the heart of these false identities and to help people step beyond any boundaries to realize their dreams.

  9. mahavir nautiyal

    Insightful blog. I may be wrong but I think we tend to re-live the painful past more rather than the happy memories. It could be because pain sinks deeper in our psyche but happy memories remain on the periphery that evaporate with time. Shelley said that, ” our sweetest songs are those that tell of saddest thoughts “. We like to indulge in our pain of the past. #4 and # 9 above point to this situation and show the way out. Thanks.

    1. It’s so true, Mahavir, that we like to indulge our pain. And when we do, the stories can get very entrenched and seem so real. Realizing that this is happening is an important step to freedom. Once we’re committed to no longer being consumed in the pain, we are ripe to know that there’s a way out.

      1. So true mahavir. I am a captivating story teller when I share my painful stories and past with people and this then gives them permission to do the same. It only worsens the pain and intensifies the need to find solutions instead of just accepting things as they are and letting it go.
        I have so many happy stories and courageous moments in my life that I could share and I’m going to begin to do this. I woke up with a different mind set this morning and had a very real convo with a client who said to me “I’m sure whatever you want in life you will get” :D and now reading this article which has been so helpful, thanks Gail! yay for the universe reaching out and giving me light again!!

        1. It’s such a simple shift, Sarah, that is always available. Yes, if we keep telling our painful stories, we keep them alive. And when we live in courage and happiness, that’s what gets reflected back. Joyful journey to you!

    2. Thank you Gail .This is the most real advice I have read .particularly regarding the aspect of being a victim . Sometimes you just want someone to understand the injustice. At least I have immediate family who felt my pain It is not easy to get over certain hurts especially when it affects your core self and passions. But, it is not fair to get my family to carry my hurt.they deserve to move on knowing that I have healed as well. Ditto to all the other comments. Working on it.

  10. Reading this was like breathing a breath of fresh air. I know I have a problem with playing the victim role as well as allowing my emotions to get the best of me. My general mood Is gloomy at best, but I do feel that my old self Is coming back slowly. I was once a huge extrovert who loved being around people and entertaining. a few years back I started to become an introvert and every since then I have known that I have only been a shell of my former self. Thank you for this blog. It helped correct my vision on things that I was trying to see but couldn’t quite find the right prescription to bring it all into focus.

    1. Hi Jay,

      I love hearing that you are again finding your “old self.” Life can be so simple – do the things you love, be around beautiful, supportive people, choose happiness over and over in what you give your attention to. You can shed what’s not working for you, so you can thrive!

  11. How do you get past the changes in your life, if the past keeps coming back to haunt you?? I keep trying to make different changes in my life to make things better, but it keeps feeling like I am failing and I’m not getting anywhere. How do you make the right decisions in your life??

    1. I feel the pain you express, Michelle, and I know it well. You might want to start with taking an objective look at how the past comes back to haunt you. Is it in your ruminating thoughts or in emotions that you can’t seem to shake? Do you automatically behave in ways that don’t serve you?

      The past is gone, but we keep it alive in the present in our thoughts, feelings, and reactions. So if you look at what is troubling you right now, you will begin to find some clues about how to move forward.

      I appreciate your question: how do you make the right decisions in your life? The answer: very slowly at first. You are probably caught up in mental and emotional habits, so you need to see through these to find the clarity. There are always red flags, if a decision isn’t right. It’s a matter of seeing them and being willing to make a courageous choice.

      Say, for example, you keep choosing partners who can’t participate in healthy relationships. You need to look at your role in the choice. What is drawing you in? And very importantly, what signs are you ignoring?

      Commit to not making one move until it feels right. This may sound like a lot of work at the beginning, but it’s what is needed to counteract all the patterns from the past.

      This is a process, and it helps to be very kind and loving toward yourself as it unfolds. If you’re interested, I write a lot about it on my blog, gailbrenner.com.

      I love that you ask these questions. It speaks to #1 of this post: get fed up. When you are truly fed up, which it sounds like you are, you are willing to give it all up and move forward free of the past. Wishing you a fruitful journey….

  12. What a great gift you gave in this article, Gail. I don’t share blogs that often, but yours is priceless.

    When I was in my teens to early 20’s I was so stuck in the “victim role” that it became my identity. I felt miserable, and according to my family, I was pretty awful to be around. (No surprise there)

    When I was finally able to see and think my way around that old identity, and consciously change my thoughts, it was the most freeing experience. I learned that insight was helpful, but that intentionally changing my old habits of thinking was what made the most difference

    It changed my life so much that I’ve devoted my career to helping others so that they don’t have to take years (like I did) to learn how to change their thoughts.

    Thanks again for a great article. Did I mention that I’m looking forward to your new book?

    1. Hi Wendy,

      I so identify! There was a time when i wasn’t so easy to be around either. It’s truly amazing to know that we can give attention to what’s not working and, inch by inch, make concrete choices that support our well being.

      So beautiful to come full circle and offer out to others what you’ve benefited from. It’s natural. Without our conditioning in the way, we feel others’ suffering and are able to bring clarity to it.

    1. That is exactly my experience, too, Vishal. The starting point is always in the deepest acceptance of what is – with no blinders on. Then the clarity comes effortlessly. Such a joy!

  13. Thank you so much for this post Gail about healing the past pain. I realized today that I was playing a victim role inside of my head. I have been waiting on a business call that felt to me as if my future depended. When I woke up this morning, I realized how much I depended on this phone call and the anticipated subsequent events.

    All of my hopes, dreams including my entire security depended on this business transaction. As I reflected, I had spent my entire childhood waiting for someone more powerful than me to save me. The fact is, they never saved me. This morning I made a decision to release any expectation completely and to freely live my day.

    Hence, I read your post. PERFECT! When I let go of being any kind of victim, including personal and business dependence, I am beginning to heal.

    For me to give up my beliefs that I can’t go on or survive without _________________(fill in the blank) is to shed victimhood. It requires me to shed an old identity about my being small and insufficient. More importantly, I must be willing to “not know”.

    I have committed for today and, a day at a time, to let go of what I think I know and let life reveal itself. I want to conclude with everything that has happened in my life that was amazing occurred once I was willing to “know nothing.”

    Thank you so much for the reminder.

    1. What a beautiful realization, Pamela! There is so much freedom in not knowing and letting things unfold – without expectations. Then you are aligned with the natural order of things and not in resistance.

    1. I love that, Ryan! The victim identity will never lead to happiness because we put our well being in the hands of something we can’t control – what other people do. The alternative? To be empowered, to make choices that support our happiness. This is what’s possible for all of us.

  14. Gail,

    I like your No. 6 Don’t Know. What a wonderful way to step into new territory. I find going into the unknown so scary. If I am willing to just allow myself to feel the pain without resistance, I can then start to go into the unknown.

    Not sure I can agree with you about not forgiving, but maybe we are thinking different things here. I don’t think we can ever forgive what people do to hurt us, especially if there is much pain involved. Like Heather mentions above, with her family members discounting and abusing her. What they are doing to her is not something that needs forgiven in my opinion. Why they do what they do is forgivable from my perspective. Maybe they don’t have enough awareness to know any other way to feel better themselves without putting down another person. They just want to feel good in the moment. I think you can forgive someone for wanting to feel better, but don’t forgive how they did it.

    When I forgive the why piece of when someone hurts me, I find it easier to let go of those stories you mention. Most of my stores are about me either blaming myself or needing the world to know the truth about me. When I can see the why of forgiveness, I can touch some compassion for the ones who hurt me. This does not exonerate them from what they did. Yet, I can stop blaming myself for what story I told me about myself. I can also understand why it is so important for me to have others see truth about me and can let that go. What becomes important is for me to believe my truth.

    So maybe you were thinking about the what of forgiving.

  15. Hi Susan,

    What an insightful discussion of forgiveness – thank you. Yes, when we understand why others do what they do, we make the space for compassion, which doesn’t mean that the “what” is made to be OK.

    I can see that I could have been clearer. Some people get stuck on trying to forgive. What I have found is that the avenue toward forgiving is to first meet and welcome one’s own pain, which is what I meant by forgetting about forgiveness – for now. When we allow our pain to be present and let the resistance to it gradually decline, we’re no longer set in a position of anger, resentment, and victimhood. We soften, our hearts open, and we can let go of having the past rule. This is the release we are looking for.

    This process brings insights such as understanding why people did what they did, and there can be an even deeper letting go. But this is all about one’s own freedom and ability to live fully now without being hampered by the past. It does not give approval to unacceptable, hurtful behavior.

    So I think we are much in alignment. I greatly appreciate the clarity you bring to this point – which I’m sure helps everyone.

    1. I think we are more in alignment here as you mention.

      I also agree with you that when something happens to us that is very current, much nurturing is better for healing then. People need to, as you say, let the natural process of allowing the pain to be present so as to let the resistance decline. That is paramount before the why of it can even sink in. Not a good time to club someone with “you should forgive”.

      Thanks for the thoughtful discussion.

  16. That’s exactly it, Susan. There seems to be a belief running that we “should” forgive, but as we all know, this is a process that evolves in its own time from accepting one’s own pain.

  17. These ways are true and following it is very easy. But the most important thing is your will to change and to find your happiness because it really matters to be happy and live your life on your own terms. Because living in the past limits your potentials and no one will truely care about u because it’s your own problem not others. I’ve been through this and i followed these ways and i easily found happiness ….

    1. I love this comment, Hend, and I’m so glad you left it. Happiness is so close and so available – for all of us always. It’s a matter of wanting it. It’s a choice that can be made in each moment. Eventually all the unhappy emotions and thought processes just collapse – and here we are – happy!

      As you say, when we hold onto unhappiness from the past, no one else really knows or cares. It doesn’t serve anyone – especially ourselves. It’s a simple choice to let a challenging thought go or to meet our emotions with love and tenderness so they lose their power. Then we go forth free and unchained!

  18. First, sorry for my bad english and greetings from Brazil

    Great post, thanks I enjoyed so much and I have been trying do some of these steps for a while.

    Some thoughts that are been hard to overcome for me is the idea that I was wrong in the past, I let down someone that loved me, and now I just want to fix this.

    I got a ideia that if I move on, and let go the past I will become a bad person,a seffish one, but I can fix the past, neither the mind of other person and this causes me so much pain. It’s kind the opposite of the victim role, bad thoughts for being bad for someone, even if it was unconscious.

    1. Hi Bruno,

      I understand the problem that you’re describing, and the process of moving through it is similar to what I’ve described in this post. You have strong feelings about what happened and the impact you have had on others. And it sounds like you are carrying this around, unable to let it go.

      It doesn’t make you a bad person to let it go. Fully admit what you did, even if it was unconscious at the time. Make apologies to people if possible and express your regrets about how you acted. If the people aren’t available, write a letter that you don’t send or even imagine the people who were hurt sitting in a chair next to you and speak your apology from your heart.

      Then see if you can have compassion for yourself at that time. You did the best you could do then. If you could have done better, you would have. Realize that you were confused, and be kind in your heart to that confused one.

      See what you can learn from your behavior, so what happened then serves you and others moving forward. How can you handle things differently now? What have you learned from that experience that helps you to be kinder and more compassionate now? How has that experience changed you? Live those changes in your day to day life now. Let what happened then affect you now in a positive way.

      Then it’s time to move on. See who you are – not just the one who hurt someone else, but realize all that you are now. When you focus just on what happened in the past, you aren’t seeing things accurately.

      Open your heart to yourself. Your self-sacrifice helps no one. Let your heart open endlessly to everyone, and rise up to be more aligned with your truth as a result of what happened.

      There is a beautiful possibility of letting go waiting for you. When you let go of letting that story define you, you realize that you can be free. You deserve to be happy just like everyone else.

  19. Friend of a Victim


    Love the article but I have one point that I’d like to make.

    I recently found out that my friend was raped and that that was the source of her anxiety these past few months. A lot of these tips do make sense in her context, except for point 2. (Don’t be the victim).

    With something as traumatic as rape, how can you not see yourself as the victim, when clearly you were? I’d like to hear your thoughts on this because I’d love to pass on the wisdom that may help her overcome her trauma.

    Someone who wants to help :)

    1. It’s so lovely to hear that you feel so deeply about helping your friend. She is at the beginning stages of recovering from a trauma, so she may very well feel like a victim. But part of her healing journey will be, when the time is right, to take control over her recovery and find a way to peace – even though this trauma happened.

      If she takes on the identity as a victim and goes through life with it year after year, this will greatly affect her quality of life and future relationships. But eventually taking control over her happiness and healing will be important for her to move on.

      I want to emphasize for you not to push her too fast to take control. It’s a delicate process to recover from a trauma and her feelings about it at the moment need to be fully respected. Professional help can be essential to the process. If I were you, I would strongly suggest that she talk to a counselor, psychologist, or rape crisis advocate to support her.

      I appreciate that you are being such a good friend to her at this time.

  20. I continue to work on many of these suggestions with some success. I get derailed, however, when dysfunctional family members hit bottom and drag me into the consequences of their poor choices. They are choosing to repeat the past; I’m moving on!

    1. Hi Sher,

      I’m so glad to hear that you are moving on. I know it’s hard, but the next step on your path might be to see how you get triggered around your family members. You can learn to recognize your emotions as they start arising, then be super loving with yourself as you feel these emotions so they don’t start to leak out.

      It’s not about waiting for them to change, but for you to relate to your own inner experience in an accepting, calming, soothing way.

      You can also limit the time you spend with them and be willing to kindly and firmly walk away if things happen that make you uncomfortable.

      Wishing you well on your journey to freedom…

  21. Hi Gail! Thank you so much for this article! I found it really helpful and interesting. The previous pages of my life story may have augmented my interest. I have to say, these points are among the many that one has to religiously take in. Life has gifted me with a mishap where a few mornings ended the years that I had with someone. While I have already significantly moved on, it’s still a riddle to me as to how happy things can find ways to end.

    By the way, may I just say that every crease in our book is a story worth sharing. :)

  22. You have a beautiful perspective on the stories that make up our lives, Franz. They are all worth sharing – and learning from. I think the message from happy circumstances ending is that we can’t really find lasting happiness in these circumstances. As you have experienced first-hand, they change, and this is outside of our control. Yes, it’s very painful when they end, but that invites us to look within for happiness and peace.

  23. Hi Gail,

    I am sure anyone would be able to heal their past pain if they apply one strategy from your list of 10. Another strategy that has helped me a lot is to pen down my pain on a piece of paper and think about whether this pain is going to help me accomplish what I want in life. If it doesn’t, I will crumple the paper into a ball and flush it down the toilet bowl. Then move on with my life.


  24. Grateful for this awesome article. I could relate so much to the happening im through (or rather had been through!)….step-9 is precisely where i find myself struggling these days and i hope i can give a little bit more push. Thanks again for i had been trying to find a good psychologist around here in my city and was finding it difficult to go to someone and have long tell-tale sessions again!!

    1. Hi Ahmad,

      Professional help can be just the right thing at the right time. But whether you work with a professional or not, you still end up incorporating what you learn into how you think and feel on a daily basis. That’s just right to realize that you need to take a clearer look at your beliefs. See that the troublesome ones don’t serve – this will inspire you to find another way to be.

  25. Your post is really helpfull. Right now I am 25 years old and I hold a regret (or rather it holds me back ) since I was 18. I let my father influence heavily my choice of university and I studied something that I hated. This caused extremely bad depression, anxiety and insecurity that I kept at bay for years by going from one relationship to the pther and clinging. Now it is my first year single in the last 9 years and I am discovering a lot about myself (although very very hard). I have finally found a way out of what I studied and I turned it towards something that inspires me. However I cannot get over the feeling that I wasn’t true to myself when I had to, that I left my father decide for me, how weak I was, how unable to take responsibility for my actions etc etc.And feel the shame and guilt consime me everyday and a knot in my stomach whenever someone asks me what I studied or what I am doing. Now I know that the reason I listened to him was that he left the house when I was very young and I still craved for his love and acceptance (although he never really knew me). And I am still ashamed of that. I am trying to heal but only rationalizing it doesn’t do the trick for me. And I am extremely scared of my emotions regarding that event since I have never really faced it (let’s say denied it), never cried about it and never said it to another living soul. I am afraid that if I feel them I will go crazy,
    But I am fed up. I want to be able to enjoy the thing I am doing now and to cut myself some slack and start taking care of me as I am self-destructive in my eating and smoking habits. Please tell me, is it possible after 7 years of calcified regret and numbness to finally let it go and accept this path in my life (although different than the initial one)? What steps should I follow practically?
    Thank you very very much for everything that you are doing!

  26. I’m glad to hear you’re fed up, Dany, because that’s when you’re really open to finding another way. You absolutely deserve to enjoy your life, especially since you’re now doing what you’re inspired to do. You’re asking for steps, but I actually hear them in what you’ve written. Self-destructive habits are always fueled by unexamined emotions. And you know there are feelings that have been hanging around for a long time that you’ve been avoiding. So that is an important and useful step – to start welcoming them. If it’s too scary on your own, consider working with a counselor who can walk with you as you begin to feel them.

    You say that you’re stuck in calcified regret and numbness, but you can also see that the way through is to cut yourself some slack and take better care of yourself. And you show so much strength and insight by finding your way to do the thing you love, even when it was very hard to do so. You also now have the courage to be single, which offers a wonderful opportunity.

    What’s called for here is self-forgiveness and understanding. That means seeing the situation clearly – that you were a vulnerable child abandoned by her father trying to do her best and that he made his hurtful choices for whatever reason. The investigation for you moving forward would be to become aware of the distorted beliefs you hold about your father, yourself, and the world, untangle them so you can see the truth, and welcome your emotions. It’s a very loving way to be with yourself. Who you are at your essence is already whole. Finding clarity bit by bit will lead you to realize what’s already true about you.

    Don’t hesitate to work with a professional to help you through all of this. Wishing you blessings on your journey. Sending love…

  27. This makes so much sense. The problem I’m having is that I am so stubbornly stuck into the pain and suffering caused by my childhood traumas for 10 years that I don’t know how to let go. Maybe I’m just not ready to stop being hurt yet? I’m seeing a hypnotherapist this month as I’m feeling desperate for anything which can help me right now. I am 25 and failing at life, I was brought up by just my emotionally unstable mother who belittled me when she was stressed. She was also neglectful in raising me and I have identity issues. The funny thing is that I am still extremely dependent on her, even though sometimes I hate everything about her. I feel incredibly selfish to be the victim all the time I feel like all the love I have to give is suffocated from the pain I’m holding on to. I am fearful for my future. Thank you for putting so much love into this blog I just wish I could open to it.Edit.. strangely after writing and expressing I do feel a little bit lighter. Holding on desperately.

    1. I appreciate your fear and pain, Jay, and I’m so glad that you are reaching out for help with a counselor. It IS possible to heal from the traumas you describe. Keep going until you feel satisfied. Find the right professionals to work with, read blogs about others finding their way out of similar circumstances, and study how successful people around you are thinking and the choices they’re making. Get to know the mindsets that hold you back and find a different one that serves you. Healing is possible, and I have the sense that you have the burning desire that it takes. You have my total support.

  28. Thank you for this article, I found it really helpful. My partner died by suicide last year. It is the hardest, toughest thing ever to go through. I find it very difficult to get away from the thoughts that are always in my head. Whether it’s memories of the stressful events leading up to his death or good memories of the great times we had together, there is always something there in my head. It feels like post traumatic stress. Not to mention all the, if only I had done…if only he had….8 months on, I miss him so much and life is so empty without him. I was very happy with my life and I didn’t ask for it to turn upside down, but here I am and I have to accept it. I can find little things in every day to be grateful for and little moments when the thoughts are not there in my head, but it is so hard. A lot of patience with the healing process is needed.

    1. I appreciate your comparison to post traumatic stress, Wendy. You did experience a trauma, and it is a process to heal. You didn’t specifically mention emotions. Taking good care of yourself includes a loving acceptance of your feelings – when you’re ready. And don’t hesitate to contact a counselor or support group to help you.

  29. Hi, thanks for your post, it was very insightful and helpful. I have been struggling with depression and suicide for years and “getting fed up” was the push factor to decide I did want to live after all. Five years on, I came across this site recently and I realised that the reason that I am not owning my recovery is that a small part of me still plays the victim role. “I am like this because of xxx”. It has been quite empowering because finally I am taking full responsibility for my thoughts and my recovery! Thank you!

  30. I understand this. But what if the pain is so hurtful because you don’t know if the person who is very close to you has changed their ways. What then? What is the next step when you’ve tried many ways to heal?

  31. Brilliant post, thank you.
    I have 2 adult children who no longer speak to me and would not sit down and tell my why (guess I’m supposed to know!). Consequently, I have felt so much pain, guilt and shame, part of me believing that if I feel bad enough for long enough, they will forgive me and start talking to me again. Hasn’t worked, of course, but after trying to overcome the sadness and now reading your post, my intention is to heal, regardless of outcome and enjoy my own life. I see I’m only hurting myself and I don’t want to hurt me anymore. thank you

  32. I’m going through a breakup, its been almost four months, it was my fault because of broken promises on quiting my addiction to alcohol. The relationship was 2 years and nine months, she told me that if I can prove to her that I’m staying clean for myself for a year she would take me back. She also made it clear that we are no longer together and that I could date other people if I wanted to. Shes said that she hopes we can work things out and that she wants what we had back when we first started dating before I started drinking. For the last month we haven’t been talking and I don’t know if she really will take me back because of the whole dating others. I have shame and guilt about hurting her emotionally, as well as I’m hurting due to her leaving and I don’t know how to get past the pain and doubt. Would you be able to help me with advice??

  33. This has been a great article to read. I have been fighting with my past for years ( now I’m 40 ). There has been a lot of self punishment, depressive and nostalgic thoughts, regrets and it’s like you are stuck and trapped. I think I’m done with this feelings. It is impossible to change the past and to erase the memories, but I also think that that place inside us, which is fliied with compassion and innocence, it’s available for everyone. You just need to really want to go there,

  34. I feel I have been aware that I am stuck when I get triggered and I identify with my wounded little girl. All the feelings of feeling insignificant, lonely and lacking surface. While there is shame I also notice feelings of resentment towards a parent that emotionally neglected me. I am stuck in that I feel like a victim always looking for affirmation from the parent. When my longing for freedom and wholeness rises up, I notice a sense of not wanting to abandon my little girl and all her loss. I am confused about reconciling my present whole self without abandoning the little girl who was always ‘not seen’. Any thoughts of how to honor the past losses without staying stuck in the past.

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