Letting Go Of The Past
“You need to let go!”
“If I hear those bloody words again, I’ll explode!” Jeremy exclaimed, the vein in his neck sticking out dangerously. He didn’t need people to tell him that. He already knew that he truly wanted to let go of the past and like many people, he knew the words – “just let go”.
But he really didn’t know how to. Or at least, his mind and body seemed to grasp onto the very thing he was supposed to let go of - those incessant memories of what had happened to him.
“Here I am going happily on way, doing my stuff and then boom!” He gesticulated dramatically, “those thoughts – ‘I wish she were dead’ and those bloody images of that night just hits me square in the face! I swear it’s an ambush!”
Seeing his friend open his mouth to reply, Jeremy raised a hand to forestall him. He knew what Jake was going to say. That he must have been stewing over the incident – his friend’s reasonable tone and the stretched patience pulled across his face implying that he, Jeremy, were dwelling on the past deliberately. Which was bloody unfair.
Ever since Alexis kicked him out of their house unceremoniously 2 years ago, Jake had been trying to move on. The initial days were a mad rush to acquire another house and to update all his details with various banks and government offices.
Then there was the long-drawn and tortuous legal tussle with Alexis – whoever knew that she could be so devious? And just when all of that was over and the dust had settled (much to his relief), and just as he thought he could dust himself off and breathe, WHAM! The ghost of Alexis comes haunting his dreams.
To be entirely truthful, it was probably because he had ran out of distractions that all these thoughts and images started to flood into his head – causing him grief. It was almost as if these memories were waiting backstage for their turn and gleefully paraded into the limelight.
Of course, Jeremy did as we all might do, and tried to think positively, look on the bright side of things, and to NOT think about what had happened. He found that diving full-on into his new life sans Alexis and keeping himself insanely busy helped. In short, he found newer and better distractions. Except that the memories and thoughts were quite insistent on their turn and took to appearing in his dreams or when he had even a sliver of quietude.
So then, how do we let go? We find that the following ‘conditions’ would help us let go of the past. Mind you, most of these ideas are counter-intuitive.
1. Re-telling what has happened to an appreciative other - someone who is patient and recognizes that the re-telling is part and parcel of moving on. Each re-telling would be different in the emotions that it evokes and also emphasizes different parts of the narrative. There is a certain power to having someone witness and validate the re-telling of memories and the emotions this evokes. It makes these emotions real.
Re-telling also helps us become ‘used to’ the story – remember the movie that you loved and watched way too many times or the horror flick that you were initial fearful of watching and was forced to do so repeatedly? With repetition, the emotions of these movies dull down and the details become fuzzy. In short, we get bored of it.
2. As we re-tell the story, it really, really helps to pay attention to our emotions. Each re-telling brings on different types of emotions, which in turn point to different needs that have to be met (if you think this sounds a lot like Focusing, you’re right!). Each emotion arising from each re-telling has to be expressed and explored thoroughly (preferably to an appreciative other).
As we re-tell the story, immerse in and weave sense out of our emotions, we start to shift. We start to notice that our emotions are less tumultuous and that the memories and thoughts become a lot less intense, and eventually stop intruding into our minds. This is when we have truly let go.
So, next time, when you are urged to let go, start to explore the very thing you wish to let go in depth, allowing all the associated difficult emotions have their time in your awareness and be processed, instead of pushing them aside.
Don’t make the clarion call to “let go” be a cliché distraction, just another futile way of running from what needs attention.