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Letting go of the past

Jack quickly jumped from the train looking at his watch and wondering why his wife, Margery, was not right behind him. They only had one day to explore Paris and Margery had planned every minute of it with military precision. Back on the train Margery was making one last sweep of their seats, making sure Jack had not left anything behind and her handbag was firmly in her grasp. Now, Margery was trapped on the train looking at her husband out on the platform. Between them was a woman struggling to disembark, pulling at her oversized Delsey suitcase and Louis Vuitton holdall and blocking the doorway. Margery looked at the women impatiently, hoping she would get out of the way before the conductor blew his whistle to signal the train was pulling away.

Margery studied the woman with a weary sigh. She was young with attractive bleached hair cut stylishly to the shoulders and was dressed from head to toe in Lululemon. She had piano players fingers and her legs stretched from her perfectly shaped buttocks all the way down to a pair of perky high-heeled ankle boots.

Jack stepped up to help the young woman and lifted her suitcase to the platform. The woman thanked Jack profusely in an alluring French accent and Jack said, “You are very welcome,” in his cheery English one. To Margery’s annoyance, Jack reached for the holdall, smiling and offering to help the woman carry the luggage from the platform, and the young woman was smiling back with grateful gestures. Jack pulled the holdall onto his shoulder and headed for the ticket barrier chatting to the young woman, smiling, and nodding, and allowing her to lead the way. Margery guffawed. That young woman was buttering up her husband as if he were a slice of bread and he was loving it!

Jack helped the woman all the way to the taxi stand where finally, they parted ways and he looked around for his wife. Margery stared at him like an angry bull at a red cape. Her nostrils flared and Jack could have sworn she hoofed the ground with her flat sensible walking shoes. They looked for a bus to take them to the first stop on Margery’s list; the Eiffel Tower. And Margery grumbled that they may have missed one because Jack just “had to do his good deed for the day!”

At the Eiffel Tower, Margery again nagged poor Jack about the time he had wasted helping the woman with her baggage. At the Arch de Triomphe, Margery’s face curdled at the spectacular view around them as she continued to grumble about pretty damsels in distress with large bags. At the Louvre Museum, standing in front of the legendary painting of the Mona Lisa, Margery inspected the work of art with a mean eye. She was still filled with complaints that Jack had wasted their precious time at the station. “That woman looked as if she could easily have afforded a porter instead of snagging you!” And as they lined up to board the boat for their trip along the Seine River, Margery complained that they could have taken an earlier cruise if Jack had not spent so much time helping strangers with their luggage. Finally, Jack had enough. He turned to Margery and said, “Margery, I carried her baggage for only a few minutes. You, however, have carried it around all day!”

Letting go of the past

It is sometimes difficult to let go of the past. Perhaps you are dealing with difficult issues from childhood, or past relationships, family issues, or work-related incidents. Unless someone invents a time machine soon, we can not go back and change what happened in the past. We can only change our attitude toward it. You may be carrying heavy and burdensome emotions such as guilt, regret, anger, or sadness. Thoughts about how you could have handled the situation differently or why you acted in a certain way can weigh you down and stop you living a full and robust life.

Here are a few tips that may help you to let go of the past.

  • We can learn valuable lessons from the past and mistakes offer some of the most profound lessons. We can learn not to repeat those mistakes.

  • It sometimes helps to journal and write down the story, slow down the thoughts and process them. Perhaps work out the timeline of key events along with the information you had at the time. Once you have written the story, draw a line under it. Write “New Chapter ” then write a new and more positive story about what things will look like going forward.

  • Try to catch any thinking traps. Do not allow one unfortunate event to affect your entire life. Ask yourself if you are only focusing on the negative points and disregarding any positives that resulted.

  • Learn to resolve each emotion as it comes up. If you are feeling regret, try to make amends as best as you can with family or friends. Apologies can help ease some difficult situations and help you come to terms with guilt and regret.

  • Ask yourself if you made the best decision you thought at the time? Ask yourself what information was available to you at the time the decision was made. Maybe new information or insight was available to you only after the incident. It would be unfair to blame yourself for past mistakes when you did not have all the information.

  • If you are feeling anger from the event, write down the benefits of holding onto the anger. What is it costing you to hold onto the anger? What would be the benefit of letting go of the anger?

The power is in your court. You can choose to let go, or you can continue to have the incident have power over you. In the above story, Margery’s anger ruined her one day in Paris and prevented her from seeing all the positive things around her.

Holding onto these negative and uncomfortable feelings will not change the past and will only prolong the emotional suffering.

If you notice thoughts about the incident tumbling around your head like laundry in a dryer, try saying the word “STOP.” Then replace the thoughts with a more positive affirmation such as “I choose to learn from the past, let go of the past, and refocus on the future” (Masters, 2015).

Practice gratefulness. Focus on the positive things in your life. We produce a fun gratefulness journal that may help (click on the book to order from Amazon)

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