Do you get frustrated, wondering WHY you can’t put the past behind you?
Letting go of painful experiences is one of the most difficult things to do, but it is also one of the most liberating. And the first step to freeing yourself from the burden of the past is to understand why you’re holding on to it in the first place.
Personal coach Tony Robbins attributes our inability to let go to two things:
“Certainty is one of the six basic human needs and is fundamentally about survival,” he says.
“Learning to let go of the past also means stepping into the unknown future. It means having the courage to let go of what is familiar—even if it’s negative—and being vulnerable enough to embrace and learn from what’s ahead.”
“We do not retain information that does not have feelings attached to it,” says Tony. “But information with emotion makes an indelible impression.”
“Think back to the tragic day of 9/11. Chances are you can probably picture who you were with and what you were doing when you heard about the terrorist attack. But if you had to think about August 11, 2001, your memory is likely very blurry when it comes to those details. Few people can remember what was happening a month before the attacks.”
When we have an experience that brings up strong emotions, we form more vivid and lasting memories. The information about this experience is stored in our brains in a different way—and the more painful the experience, the stronger that link becomes.
If you are struggling to let go of something painful from your past, it can help to identify the emotions surrounding it.
It’s important to remember that although we may feel those emotions when we remember the experience, the experience itself is over – we are no longer in that place of danger, risk, or hurt. This is the first step in letting go.
“The first step in how to let go of the past is to acknowledge what is holding you back and determine your reason for wanting to move on,” says Tony.
“What exactly are you holding on to—a failed relationship? A slight from a friend or family member that you just can’t get over? Do you need to forgive someone—either in person or just in your own heart—so that you can let go of anger and step into a more peaceful state?”
Once you’ve identified exactly what it is, you need to gain clarity on your reasons for wanting to move on.
“Ask yourself: ‘What are the reasons that I absolutely must move beyond this?’” Tony advises.
“How will your life change when you learn how to move on from the past? And how will you feel in this new chapter of your life?”
“This is one of the most important parts of the process because it will help you stay committed to learning how to let go of the past. Gaining a clear sense of purpose is essential to establishing any goal.”
“The next step in how to let go of the past is to identify your emotional habits,” says Tony.
“This is one of the most challenging parts of learning to let go because it takes deep introspection. How do you live your life? What are your beliefs that limit you? Where do you live emotionally?”
When you experience negative emotions on a daily basis, you can become blind to them—they become normalised, and eventually they become a habit. You become stuck in an emotional loop.
So ask yourself: what are my emotional habits?
“The ultimate breakthroughs in life happen by learning strategies, developing an empowering story and ensuring you’re in the right state to move forward,” says Tony.
“To do this, you must condition your mind every single day about how to let go of the past.”
Sounds straightforward, but how do we do this?
“Feed yourself empowering stories,” says Tony. “Surround yourself with people who make you better and put yourself in a peak state.”
“Work on cultivating a thriving garden instead of a dry patch of weeds. It’s the small rituals that you do every day that build momentum and, ultimately, lead to massive change.”
“Find something you want to serve that is greater than yourself,” says Tony. “Live for your family, for your community, for humanity. Motive does matter, so find motives that go beyond yourself.”
Why is this so important?
“Focusing on the needs of others has a way of empowering you to do more than you thought possible,” says Tony.
“You feel the benefits immediately and you will become grounded in the moment. You become more productive and you find creative solutions to problems. You find strength when you’re exhausted and you’ll learn how to let go of the past and step forward into the future in a more loving, conscious and compassionate way.”
That sounds like a life worth fighting for.