The Richard Nicholls Podcast

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Episode 129: Letting Go Of The Past

How many times do you need to hear a joke before it’s no longer funny?
What if you replayed that joke every day for a few years, would you find it anywhere near as funny as you did when you first heard it?
I doubt it.

So why do we find that we can hold onto bad experiences for years and still feel upset about it?

It may sound daft but it’s often because there is a part of us that doesn’t want to let go of the past trauma. Losing the memory completely might leave us vulnerable to the same threat returning. If it’s always on our mind then we’ll always be on the lookout for the potential for it to happen again and so can run away from it before it even starts.
If that happens with you then congratulations you’re human.

Although in the 21st century it’s probably OK to let anything that happened to you in the past stay in the past.
But, in order to move on and leave it in the past we need to recognise that the past is gone. The first step in doing that is to spend some time living in the NOW, to notice more about what’s going on in the present.
Lately that process is part of what’s being called Mindfulness, and has been around as a process for thousands of years under various different names, and is still around today.
Whether you call it Mindfulness or Meditation, we are all capable of doing it.
All of us, no matter how stressed or anxious, will at times have a blank mind. Whether that’s because we’re enjoying a piece of music, a book or even a thought.
Sometimes things just seem to pause and we’re only noticing something that we’re focusing on.
I recommend you practise that, because taking that first step in letting go of the past by only noticing the present, gives you evidence that its safe to leave the past where it belongs.

Do you need to stop being a victim?
I know that sounds a bit rude, after all something could’ve happened that was awful, but blaming someone else for how you feel years later isn’t helping.
Take responsibility for your emotions. If you’ve been practising negative emotions you can get so good at them that they feel automatic, and you create the feelings so fast they seem outside of your control. But it’s just a skill, you’ve got good at feeling bad, thats all.
So get good at feeling good. by practising.
Everything we have to learn to do takes practise, and part of succeeding at something does mean being bad at it first for a while, but keep at it, you’ll get there.

Take responsibility for your happiness. Don’t let someone from your past have control over your emotions, why let someone continue to hurt you, deliberately? I know it can be hard but that’s OK, hard work pays off in pretty much every circumstance certainly this one.
Overcoming these things doesn’t happen by accident, it happens because we let it happen.

Do you need to forgive someone for something, obviously not everyone is going to be forgiven, there are some things that we can’t forgive and I wouldn’t ask you to. But there are some events that could easily create anger towards someone and thats not helpful, it eats away at us and keeps the past locked in our minds as if it’s the present.
See if you can create some genuine empathy, try and look at it from their perspective. Most people that come to therapy are suffering with nothing more than life itself, a phrase that Freud used 100 plus years ago, and it’s still (mostly) the case today. Yes, there are some awful things too, but the majority are petty, relatively trivial, and that can be frustrating to a client because they know that they shouldn’t be feeling as bad about it as they do.
But they keep going back in their mind to maybe one particular time that they were hurt, and if someone was to honestly explain why they did what they did to you or said what they said, they’d probably reply “Because it seemed like the right thing to do at the time”.
They don’t have to admit that they were wrong for you to let it go, and you don’t need them to apologise in order to feel OK about it.
If whatever you’re doing with your thoughts isn’t helping, then it’s time to do something different and welcome a little bit of blue sky into your life.