- in Self-Care
“You have the power to heal your life, and you need to know that. We think so often that we are helpless, but we're not. We always have the power of our minds…Claim and consciously use your power.”
- Louise L. Hay
In this column, you will learn simple but powerful tips on how to heal from past hurts and let go from a wide range of experts.
Clicking on the expert names below will take you to their individual blurb on how to heal from past hurts and let go.
We’d only been dating a few months, but we were already pretty serious. We’d talked about marriage and dreamed about what our lives together might be like. During one of our deep conversations about life, I tripped or dropped something in a clumsy way. My then boyfriend (now husband of 15 years), laughed and said, “I always thought I’d marry a graceful girl.” It slipped out of his mouth before he realized what he’d just said. I felt like a small spear hit me in my middle, and tears began to leak from my eyes. It was the first time he made me cry, but of course it wasn’t the last.
Emotional wounds, hurts, disappointments…they are part of the terrain in relationships.
Some hit us far deeper than others. Some shake the very foundations of how we see ourselves. Some bring tears, others trigger angry, defensive responses and then settle into our bones after the fact.
Learning from our past hurts is important, and we need to steer clear of emotionally unhealthy situations.
Unfortunately, though, even in the healthiest relationships, there’s no avoiding getting hurt and hurting others occasionally. And, we all carry some past wounds into our current relationships, too.
Becoming hardened and immune to pain isn’t the answer, either. Part of any truly loving and deep relationship is being vulnerable – choosing to reveal more of yourself, knowing that you may get hurt.
We’re left with one option: Getting better at finding healing.
We all know the basic steps to healing when we get a scrape, a cut, or a cold. Though, we cannot heal these things directly, we know what to do to encourage healing (clean the wound, use a little ointment, rest, etc.). But, do we know the steps to nurture emotional healing?
Healing, like gardening, is an organic process that takes time. In fact, healing is a quite a bit like gardening. Though you can plant a seed in good soil with the proper amount of sunlight and water, you cannot make it grow. You can nurture it, but you cannot control it. Healing is the same way: You can create the healing conditions, but you cannot make healing happen.
So, what are the conditions for emotional healing?
1. A safe space to talk about and process what happened
Take time to attend to the pain, be willing to admit what happened, share your feelings, be honest about how something is affecting you – these can happen with trusted friends or with a professional (or both!). They set the stage for healing to happen. In a gardening analogy this step is like preparing the soil.
2. Healthy and empowering outlets outside of the relationship.
Sometimes people get stuck in step one, and they don’t know how to move forward. To move forward and truly heal, choose activities that empower you and promote growth.
With small hurts, this may simply be some self-care time – a relaxing bath, journaling, coffee with a friend. In the case of deeper wounds, this may be taking a class you always wanted to take, finding a new hobby, or writing a blog. This step is like planting seeds in gardening – it’s where we invite new life and growth.
3. Letting go of blame and feelings tied to the incident.
Whether the hurt is something relatively small or a deep pain that has gone on for years, this step is key. It is like water in our gardening analogy. Healing cannot happen without it. Forgiveness may seem like an archaic, religious idea, but it is the heart and soul of healing. When we continue to hold something against another person, we are hurting ourselves most of all.
Here’s one simple ritual to let go of blame and to choose forgiveness:
- Make a list of all the ways you feel hurt by a person.
- Read the list and then say out loud, “I am justified in feeling angry and hurt.”
- Then say, “Yet, I let go of these hurts and I forgive this person.”
- Take a few deep breaths, imagining the anger and pain leaving your body.
With deep wounds, new pain might arise, and you’ll have to do this or other rituals multiple times.
If possible and appropriate, seek reconciliation with the person who hurt you. Simply letting go of hurts and forgiving your partner does not set the stage for moving forward in a healthy way. Reconciliation is like sunlight in a healthy relationship. It builds resilience and helps the relationship to be stronger and deeper. To do this, talk to your partner when you are calm, and tell him or her what you need to move forward/reconcile.
5. Beware of Healing Hazards
In gardening, there are pests to worry about. In wound healing, there’s infection. In emotional healing, there are other hazards to watch out for. Stay away from negativity and people who seem to reopen your wounds. Watch out for stagnation (which often comes with prolonged unforgiveness). Keep being honest, and don’t avoid the pain. Steer clear of contempt and blame.
You’ll know healing is happening, when you can tell a new story.
You can speed this along a little by thinking back over the pain you experienced and creating a new story or perspective that feels even more true (and more empowering) than the one you told in the midst of feeling hurt or disappointed. In the words of singer Sara Groves, “haunting” starts to look more like “remember” and “scars” start to look a little more like “character.”
Healing is not just possible, it’s part of our journey as healthy human beings. All these years later after my husband accidentally called me “clumsy,” I can feel graceful in my own genuine way and laugh at myself when I do something clumsy, with no remnant of pain. Healing frees us from the pain of the past and opens us up to engage in life and in all our relationships more fully.
Candace McCallister, LAC – www.sweetwateroffering.com
We all know it is impossible to get through life without some serious losses, disappointments and betrayals.
Yet, I think one of the reasons these events can hurt so much is that many of us were raised reading fairytales and watching movies that promised easy solutions and happy endings.
When we don’t get our easy, happy ending it can feel like life has singled us out and let us down. Bitterness and disillusionment can follow. Few of us realize that to get our happy ending, it often takes disciplined and consistent self-awareness and personal growth work.
So how do we heal from the inevitable emotional injuries and continue to keep our hearts open to love?
Here are some general guidelines:
1. Share your feelings with another:
The first step is to acknowledge the unhealed pain and hurt from the past. It may be necessary to find a trusted person to talk with. Honestly discuss what happened and how it affected you. Empathic listening and care from another allows us to face our pain and not bury it in denial.
Sometimes we are truly blindsided and victimized by another person and this needs to be honored and grieved. Yet, most of the time we played our own part in the drama and pain of a difficult relationship and we hurt the other person as much as they hurt us. As part of our healing, we need to be willing to look beyond what happened to us and confront our participation in the problems.
2. Work on the shadows from your past:
Be willing to take a look at how your unhealed wounds from the past may be getting in the way of the love and connection you truly desire. This process is difficult to do on your own as we all have blind spots. Most of us cannot see the roots of our repetitive dysfunctional patterns. These patterns typically stem from childhood and are buried in our subconscious programming. A good therapist or relationship coach can help in uncovering these self-sabotaging patterns and beliefs.
Once we become more aware of the particular subconscious thoughts that are blocking our happiness, we can work on consciously changing and rewiring these thoughts. This can be done in a variety of ways such as cognitive behavioral therapy, The Byron Katie Process and the practice of mindfulness and meditation.
3. Cultivate an attitude of acceptance, compassion and forgiveness:
While doing the uncovering of your unhealed pain, it is important to realize that whoever hurt you also has their own repository of unhealed pain from their past. Chances are they were doing the best they could in the given situation. When we acknowledge this, it takes us out of the victim/martyr role and opens our heart to the complexities of human relationships.
From this vantage point, we have more capacity to feel empathy and compassion for all involved parties. We can take a stance of acceptance of another’s faults and weaknesses. This does not necessarily mean we will continue in certain relationships, but our heart can heal and forgiveness may follow.
Life is certainly messier and more complicated than the fairytales and Disney stories we were raised on. No one gets out unscathed. We all suffer disappointments, betrayals and loss. Yet, as we heal our broken hearts, we ultimately develop the skills, compassion and vulnerability to more fully love both ourselves and others.
Nancy Harris, LCSW, LICSW - www.nancyharriscoaching.com
“Forgiveness releases the past to divine correction and the future to new possibilities. Whatever happened to you, it is over. It happened in the past; in the present it does not exist unless you bring it with you. Nothing anyone has ever done to you has permanent effects unless you hold on to it permanently.”
I remember the anger and outrage I felt when, after being pushed out of a school I had been instrumental in starting and growing into a respected educational institution, my husband, who also worked there, was fired with no explanation. The new administration had a different vision for the school and we didn’t fit into the picture.
We could have sued, but I’m glad we didn’t.
To have done that would have kept the upset alive and active in our lives. Instead, we both moved on, turning our attention toward the things we’d always thought about doing, but never had the time or boldness to pursue. It was actually an opportunity.
This doesn’t mean there was not a period of healing, though.
We didn’t get over it right away. We were angry and hurt, after all of our years of going above and beyond to make sure the school was the best it could be. We felt betrayed.
One of the first things we did to heal was to go visit my parents out of town. Being with people who loved us unconditionally was calming. It allowed us the space to recover in a safe environment, to get perspective and to regain our sense of self-worth.
We had, after all, touched many lives in positive ways. We began to focus on all the good that we knew we had done. Then, we were able to start thinking about the opportunities this situation actually offered.
What were the things we really felt inspired to do?
How could we share our gifts in a way that was most satisfying to each of us? My husband had enjoyed working with computers with his students and turned that into his own business as a computer consultant. He’s so much happier now!
I had already been involved with direct sales, and while that experience was valuable training, it wasn’t my landing place. It did afford me the opportunity to explore other options, though, and I eventually found my true calling in life coaching.
Eventually, we were both able to come to a place of forgiveness.
I realized that if I hadn’t felt pushed out and resigned and my husband hadn’t been fired, our lives wouldn’t have expanded in the new and delightful ways that they have. Instead of blaming others for treating me badly, I was able to see the gift they had actually given me.
Every ending is a new beginning.
To recap, here are some steps you can take to heal from the pain of job loss—whether its because of downsizing, firing, or corporate takeover:
1. Surround yourself with supportive people to create a safe space. This means people who love you and see your worth—not people who will join you in feeling angry or depressed. Give yourself some time and space to just be. Think of all the things that are good about you.
2. Think about what you really want to do. What skills and talents do you enjoy using? What kind of work environment do you thrive in? This is a golden opportunity to create a future you really love. You may benefit from seeing a career coach or getting training in a new field.
3. Practice forgiveness. Forgive yourself and forgive anyone else involved. Forgiveness frees you from the past and allows you to move forward into something better. It doesn’t mean that was acceptable for people to treat you badly. It simply means you are willing to release being stuck in anger and resentment so you can heal.
4. Realize you are not a failure. Losing a job simply means that you and the job were not a good match. It was time to move on so that you could become who you are truly meant to be.
Estra Roell, Life Purpose Coach– www.americaslifepurposecoach.com
When you feel deeply hurt, it is often because you had a dream or a goal that got shattered.
You loved someone who rejected you, you hoped to move in a certain direction but got blocked, you expected to get a promotion, you got betrayed, or deeply disappointed, or treated badly by someone you thought cared.
Years ago, I applied for a job that seemed like it was meant to be.
I had all the qualifications, the experience, and already knew everyone I would be working with. I had great self-confidence, and did a great presentation. So I was shocked and deeply hurt when the job was given to someone else with fewer qualifications. I didn’t even get a direct notification, but heard about the other person getting the job accidentally in a meeting.
The pain of this disappointment was intense at first. I really liked the people who voted against me, and thought I had a good working relationship with them. I was sure that I wanted that job, and it hurt to be rejected.
What happened because of being turned down, however, changed the course of my life.
Instead of working at the new job full time, going to committee meetings (which I really hated), and focusing on research instead of teaching, I opened my own counseling center, taught workshops in the community, expanded my counseling practice, and wrote two books. Obviously, this didn’t happen overnight. It took the next fifteen years.
Healing takes time, but you’ll heal more quickly if you tune in to what you really need in order to move through the process.
First, it’s important to assess whether the hurt you are feeling is really in the past or if it is still ongoing. If you’re in a relationship with a borderline or narcissist, he or she will typically want to assign all their hurtful behaviors to the past—even if it was only a day ago. However, if the hurtful behavior is still ongoing, you’re not going to be able to heal. What you need, instead, is to figure out how to extricate yourself from the hurtful experiences by standing up for yourself, changing the situation, protecting yourself from further harm, or even ending the relationship.
If the hurt is truly in the past, it’s time to give yourself credit for getting through that difficult time.
You may still be mourning the loss or disappointment, but beware of constantly going over and over it and blaming yourself. Self- blame inevitably leads to discouragement, plummeting self-esteem, and an inability to let go and move on. We often think that if we can figure out what went wrong, we can fix the situation or change the outcome.
However, it is often better to look for new options.
It is not just time that heals, but also new experiences, new choices, and new thoughts. Even if you don’t understand why things happened as they did, keep reaching out for your dreams by encouraging yourself to move forward. Looking at the past can be helpful, but it is only by taking action in the present that you continue living. The old saying that “When one door closes, another opens” is only relevant if you are willing to reach out and open the new door.
We heal from the past when we remember the good, learn from the bad, and move on to new possibilities.
Margalis Fjelstad, Ph.D., LMFT – www.margalistherapy.com
“To get over the past, you first have to accept that the past is over. No matter how many times you revisit it, analyze it, regret it, or sweat it…it’s OVER. It can hurt you no more.” - Mandy Hale
We all have a past and somewhere in that past we were hurt and we hurt others.
No matter if you are stuck on thoughts of someone who hurt you, or how you hurt someone else, this process will be the same. The very first thing to do is to realize that what happened in the past is done and over with. No amount of thinking, praying, wishing, or hoping can change it.
For most people though it is easy to get caught in a cycle of replaying it over and over in minds. We think about what we would have done or said differently if we had the chance to do it over again. The truth is we can’t. There is no possible way to turn back the clock and make changes to what has already happened.
This leaves us with two choices.
If we hurt someone and are now beating ourselves up for it, we can sincerely apologize to that person.
It doesn’t mean they will forgive us, that is there choice, but often when we make amends with those we have harmed we can finally let it go. We can take the lessons we have learned forward with us into the future and be sure to not repeat our mistakes.
The second option, if we were the one who was hurt, is to forgive those who have wronged us.
Forgiveness does not mean that what they did to us was right or okay, it just means that we are no longer going allow these thoughts to continue hurting us. The stop sign technique can be very helpful here. When unpleasant thoughts about the past appear, picture a stop sign in your head. This is a great reminder that these thoughts are no longer serving you.
For both sides it is time to stop playing the victim.
It’s so easy to get sucked into how someone hurt you. You get sympathy from others, you can feel bad (which ironically can start to feel good), and you get to tell all the world, “look what he did to me.” But if you want your life of peace and happiness back, you have to stop playing the victim. Yes you were hurt, that is valid, but unless the hurt is continuing today it is time to let it go. If the hurt is still happening it may be time to let the other person go. Some hurts are directed to us intentionally and others are not. For the ones that are not, stop and see if you can recognize your part in it. Did what this person do or say open up an old wound for you? Often times feeling hurt has nothing to do with what happened and has to do with something inside of us that we need to fix. Just stop giving away your power by remaining the victim to something someone else did to you. Take back your power and take back control of yourself.
None of this is easy.
It is often hard to take back our power and control. It is easy to get stuck in victim mode where we don’t have to take responsibility and we don’t have to look within ourselves for what changes we can make. It is worth it though. To be able to live in the present moment and enjoy what each day has to offer is priceless!
Kimberly Speer, CLC, ELIMP - www.destinybydesignlifecoaching.com
“It's so hard to forget pain, but it's even harder to remember sweetness. We have no scar to show for happiness. We learn so little from peace.” Chuck Palahniuk
So often we get trapped in the past. We get stuck in the pain. The past doesn't get to hinder your future or hold the present hostage. It's time to set yourself free!
Here are a few things you can do to heal past pains.
Time- It's true, time heals all wounds. The more distance you have with a painful situation the easier it is to heal. Give yourself permission to heal the pain. To lean in and ask what lessons need to be learned from the situation, how can you grow and be better? When you listen to the lessons, you catapult healing, helping yourselves to release the pain. When you gift yourself time you allow yourself to heal.
Self care- Now is the time to tend to you, your heart, your needs. What do you need? Treat yourself like you treat your best friend. Take care of your emotional, physical and mental needs. Do things that make you feel good. Yoga, meditation, exercise, nourishing foods, hot baths, good laughs, all those things that replenish and rejuvenate you. When you care for you, you are able to heal the past.
Cultivating interests- Do things you always wanted to do. Explore your curiosities. Not only will this distract you from over thinking the past and getting stuck, it helps you reconnect to yourself and others. You feel better about yourself and that's part of healing.
Cut the cords- We are connected through energetic cords; often times we need to cut these cords to heal. Cutting the cords allows you deal with your emotions, not the muck everyone's emotions. Set the intention that you are, “calling back all pieces and parts of you and returning all that doesn't belong to you.”
You can visualize scissors cutting the cords. I like to visualize octopus tentacles, I pull back mine and the other person pulls back theirs. Don't be surprised if you hear from the other person, we are sensitive to energy and often feel the change. This process realigns you to yourself, helping you to heal.
Wishing you well on your journey. Remember you are amazing and you don't have to suffer from past pains.
Margaret Bell, MA, NCC – www.forwardkindheart.com
When it comes time to let go of hurt from the past, it is important to choose to be a victim of hurt, not being A VICTIM.
The difference s in how you allow it to be felt and experienced every day.
When you are a victim of a crime, hurt, disappointment, etc. – no matter who or what causes it – you can allow it to be an event in your life. By being an event that does shape and effect you, but NOT define you, you can integrate it into the whole of you and allow it to shrink to the amount of pain, hurt, and eventually just become a lesson learned.
Be BEING a victim, you embody the pain.
You have to feed it, and allow it to define who you are and keep it alive to keep yourself alive. This means that you ARE a victim and you feel the pain everyday very similarly to how it first started. You may feel entitled to the pain and even empowered by the pain, but it overtakes who you are and become a main piece of your identity.
It may sound like small shift, but choosing to have been a victim of hurt and NOT embodying the pain is very different than allowing it to talk you over and make you A VICTIM.
Choose to keep yourself and not give it over to the bad things that happen. Allow pain to be felt, but not become part of you. Simple, is not easy. Don’t be a victim.
Dr. Chelsie Reed, PhD, LPC - www.drchelsie.com
It’s inevitable, in this life we cannot escape hurt and pain.
It’s a part of our earthly experience. We are here to learn, and part of the learning is going through the hurt and healing. We do come out on the other side, however, it’s a process. The initial step in overcoming hurt is to acknowledge the hurt and take responsibility for it. Define specifically who or what hurt you and know that you will be able to move on. For instance, if someone whom you were partnered with cheated on you, it is non-productive to blame yourself. You most likely will feel hurt, humiliated and rejected, however, you are NOT responsible for someone else’s behavior.
Having emotions is a part of being human.
Reacting to hurt is one aspect of feeling your emotions. You have normal human reactions to hurt and pain and know this is perfectly alright. Allow yourself time to grieve. The amount of time this takes depends on the situation. Go easy on yourself, yet be cautious about playing any victim role. Work on making positive emotional changes. There will be a time and a place for closure. Give yourself the necessary time for this, and don’t make a point of dragging out your hurt as you are only hurting yourself more. At some point you will have an inner knowing that you are healing from your hurt and pain.
When you are hurting, now is the time more than ever to remain in the present.
By analyzing and living in the past with what went wrong and what contributed to your hurt has its place. Don’t let the situation become who you are. Begin to take some action steps to overcome rumination. You can make conscious choices on how not to allow that particular situation that caused you hurt to ever occur again. Perhaps you could write in a journal of your lessons and learning experiences and how you will make a conscious effort not to repeat the lesson to refrain from further hurt. By writing, this can empower you to focus on letting go of the negative and focus on the positive.
Begin to reconnect with the people, places and things you enjoy.
You can live a full life again through healing. While you never “get over” major losses in life that are very hurtful, you have the ability to heal. By starting a gratitude journal, you can focus on what is going right in your life. This helps shift your focus to the good, not the negative.
Focus on those people in your life who are kind and trustworthy as opposed to those who lie and manipulate.
That aspect alone will help you heal. Allow yourself to be free of anyone in your past who has hurt and wronged you. Do not give them that power. Send them light, forgive and move on. If someone has hurt you, for she/he is a tortured soul who is wounded and needs forgiveness. Learning to let go of anger does not make what another’s hurt did to you acceptable, it simply allows you to live in a better place within your heart.
Connie Clancy Fisher, ED.D. - www.connieclancyfisher.com
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