Step back into your past and allow yourself to think about all the experiences that influenced your present self. Your mind will automatically bring up images and thoughts as soon as you dive into this new, fascinating and emotionally complicated territory. Delving into this space and exploring the intricacies of your emotional body can be one of the most difficult things you will ever do—but also extremely worthwhile.
Bring up the pictures—your memories—into your mind’s eye so you can explore them. These need not necessarily be childhood memories. If you’re sixty years old and something traumatizing happened to you at fifty-five, it’s certainly worth it to go back and shine new light into the emotional dust that you’ve ignored for five years.
Those who have hurt you. Past failures. Terrible mistakes. All the myriad of ways that the human experience can scar and influence you—the decision to go back and access the remnants of the past is one that you make on your own. Nobody else can make it for you.
The Buddha once said that it is in the nature of things that joy arises in a person free from remorse. Freeing yourself from the influence of your past errors releases you from remorse in the present. But how can this be achieved?
Perspectives and Books
Different books written from different authors’ perspectives provide very interesting ways to achieve this goal of embracing and releasing the past.
In Everett Worthington’s book, Moving Forward: Six Steps to Forgiving Yourself and Breaking Free from the Past, he outlines six steps that can be used to analyze your past and assess what it is that you need to let go. These six R’s are, in order:
Receive God’s Forgiveness
Reach Emotional Self-Forgiveness
Resolve to Live Virtuously
This is a fascinating book because Worthington is a licensed clinical psychologist who writes the book specifically to help religious and spiritual people, so there are a lot of mentions of God in the book. It follows a pattern of forgiveness and acceptance.
Harold H. Bloomfield’s Making Peace With Your Past: The Six Essential Steps to Enjoying a Great Future (yes, six steps again) follows a similar path: heal your painful past, transcend the struggles of the past, break free from shame, end the horror of guilt and regret, dump grief and bitterness on the wayside, and bring love back into your life.
I’ve read several books on the subject and, with minor variations in approach, the process is more or less the same—and forgiveness is always one of the first and most important steps.
Release Yourself From the Prison of the Past
This is a new day. This is a new life. Allow yourself to evolve and break free from those emotional chains that you drag around with you. No matter which book you read or which seminar you attend, the path is more or less the same: first, you allow yourself to receive forgiveness (whether this forgiveness comes from God or from yourself is up to you; use what works for you).
Allow yourself to drop everything that doesn’t serve you and as you do so, become kinder with yourself and practice self-acceptance. Release any addictive, obsessive or unhealthy relationships from your life. Healing the wounds of the past takes some time, but it’s worth it in the end.
When you’re a child, you’re like wet cement. If you’re abused when you’re just a tiny toddler, the memories stick to you like glue and feed you lies for the rest of your life unless you take the steps to heal yourself. As a child, you interpret lies as truth—they become internalized in your mind.
Forgiving others is the key to freeing yourself. Forgiveness is the key that unlocks the door of bitterness and the shackles of hatred. It’s a step-by-step journey, where each day you forgive yourself just a little bit more.
I’d like to finish with a passage from J. Denny Weaver’s book, The Nonviolent God, which I think sums up the process of forgiveness perfectly:
In the practice of forgiveness as understood in psychology, the emphasis falls on the process of letting go of anger or hatred and on the benefit of this process for the one who forgives. The process of letting go, of forgiving, requires a decision to forgive, but it is an ongoing event, an attitude more than a one-time event. It may in fact continue for a lifetime.
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