10 Life-Changing Facts to Heal the Pain of the Past

“Freedom is what you do with what’s been done to you.” ~Jean Paul Sartre

Still plagued by your past? Then this post is for you. But only if you want to be free, only if you want to know the open-heartedness and enthusiasm for life that come with making peace with the past.

As you probably know, sometimes events from the past have a mind of their own. Memories keep recirculating when all you want is for them to disappear. You are way more emotionally reactive than you know is good for you. And you are limited by distrust, neediness, and a stunted view of what is possible for you.

If you know your past is still nipping at your heels, read on. Because you will discover 10 facts that may just be the key to unlock the door to your full, unbridled, joyful, infinitely sane expression of you. Be free of the past, and you can go on and simply enjoy your life.

A Personal Example

How do I know? From first-hand experience. For many years, I had a very rocky relationship with my parents, filled with anger and resentment about the past. My mind screamed about the “should have’s” and “ought to be’s.” I kept an endless list about what I deserved, but thought I had missed out on. There were periods with no communication and many arguments as we tried and failed repeatedly to find a way of meeting. Until I saw the light.

In a moment of insight, I took responsibility for my own happiness. I saw that my anger was preventing me from experiencing the ease and well being that I desperately wanted, so I stopped feeding it. No more stories about what should have been, no more blaming or waiting for solutions. My identity as the wounded child disappeared, and what was revealed? Happiness. Peace.

The story of what happened in my past didn’t change. But what I gave power to totally changed. I stopped dwelling on the past. I stopped justifying the anger, and now, 15 years later, I have trouble even remembering the details of events that used to agitate me to no end. I am so much more drawn to ease and simplicity. Yes, my relationship with my parents has improved beautifully, but that has been a side effect and not the primary driver. What I wanted more than anything was to be free of the past and happy in the now. And, yes, I am free of the past and so deeply happy in the timeless now.

10 Life-Changing Facts

What happened to me is, without question, possible for you. Apply these 10 life-changing facts to the sticky residue from your past. See clearly, get unstuck, and move forward free and unencumbered.

1. The past isn’t really about the past.

When you look with great clarity, you will see that there is no actual thing called the past. Everything that happens happens in the present – it can’t be any other way. Memories of events are thoughts occurring in the present. Anger or hurt about the past is happening now. Your present moment experience in the now is what keeps the past alive.

What is amazing about this understanding is that it shows you that the way out of your suffering is always in the present. You can change your perspective – now, focus on something different – now, feel your feelings – as they are right now.

If you want to heal from the past, put your attention on your present moment experience.

2. Memories are not the problem.

A memory is a thought, and a thought has no power or meaning whatsoever, unless you give it power or meaning. You have many thoughts about things that happened long ago, and these thoughts cause no problems. But some thoughts are sticky. You have an emotional reaction to them and you think them over and over. You may even have beliefs related to them, for example, “I am justified in thinking this” or “I need an apology so I can move on.” This keeps them very much alive, affecting your ongoing experience.

If you want to be free of the past, lose interest in these sticky thoughts. Know that it doesn’t serve you to repeat them and that thinking they are justified only delays your freedom. Be prepared to take a look at the pure experience of your feelings without the layer of thinking that solidifies them (see #6 below).

3. “Healing” means letting go so the thoughts and feelings don’t impact you.

Your goal is to neutralize the story from the past so it loses its power over you. It becomes transparent, with no meaning and no effect. You change your relationship to your thoughts so they don’t sit like a dark cloud over you. Your goal is not to:

  • Make yourself forget about the past (impossible)
  • Stuff or ignore your feelings (creates other problems – addiction, anyone?)
  • Wait for an apology or acknowledgment (postpones happiness)
  • Wait for time to heal all wounds (you may need more than time)
  • Wallow endlessly in your emotions (oh, so painful)
  • Redo the past (you can’t change what happened but you absolutely can change your reaction to what happened)

Keep holding as possible: freedom…peace…sanity…freshness in the moment…fully alive now.

4. The path to healing opens up once you are fed up by how the stories about the past impact you.

As I’m happy to say as often as necessary, what you focus on is what will grow. If you cultivate sadness, regret, and revenge, then they will become your reality. As an alternative, be very willing to see through these stories as much as is needed. Be open to energy moving through your body rather than staying stuck. Prepare yourself to feel differently. Contemplate not defining yourself by thoughts about the past.

5. You get a jump-start on releasing the past when you take full responsibility.

Once you see that the ball is totally in your court, you have set the stage for deep letting go. Your happiness is your responsibility alone, not anyone else’s. You might be very familiar with feeling like a victim. But this is a passive, unempowered position, leaving you waiting for words or actions from someone else, something you cannot control.

Taking responsibility means being open to recognizing how your own internal landscape is feeding your suffering. What thoughts make you unhappy? What feelings are stuck in your body and heart? How do you make yourself suffer by recycling negative memories through your mind? Being stuck in the past means that a part of your heart is closed. Take responsibility for going right into those bruised and tender places. Read on to find out how.

6. Telling stories keeps the past lodged in your mind, heart, body, and spirit.

We tell ourselves all sorts of stories that bring trouble to our lives. Want to be trouble-free? Here is the medicine.

  1. Notice how entranced you can be by the stories of drama and victimhood that appear in your mind.
  2. Just for a moment, let yourself lose interest in these thought stories. (see #2 above)
  3. See that what is left is a pattern of physical sensations, maybe gripping, tension, or burning. You may never have noticed these sensations before, but they have probably been there for a long time.
  4. Now notice this: You are aware, and these sensations are appearing in your awareness. They come, go, and change, but here you are: aware.
  5. Take the perspective of awareness, and the sensations have the freedom to be. They aren’t ignored or suppressed. You aren’t so busy in the story that you don’t notice them.
  6. Now notice: Are you suffering? No, you are simply experiencing sensation as awareness.

This is freedom – no attention to the story, experience appearing and disappearing with ease. You: unchanging, clear, undisturbed.

7. Beliefs about healing can get in the way.

Besides getting stuck in the story, you might become aware of beliefs you hold about what needs to happen for you to let go. These are simply more thoughts that keep you distracted from the heart of the matter. Here are some possibilities:

  • “I feel justified in staying stuck because I was wronged.”
  • “It is someone else’s responsibility to make this better for me.”
  • “If I let go, I’m somehow approving others’ bad behavior.”
  • “I need an apology.”
  • “Life is unfair.”
  • “It was so bad that it’s not possible for me to heal.”

You life begins now, in this very moment…and now…and now. You can always start anew. Don’t feed these limiting thoughts, and you won’t need them to disappear. Proceed to discover that you were never not whole, that a part of you has always been untouched by the world.

8. Relationship troubles relate to your past.

Unless you see through all of it, you are a product of your past and the ideas you have formed about how relationships work. This keeps the past alive in the present. Do you fear rejection or commitment? Do you feel you need approval and attention? Do you isolate or push people away? Do you need to be on top and in control? Do you have difficulty trusting? If these tendencies cause you problems in your relationships, here is your opportunity.

Untangle your thoughts and feelings about the past, and live in freedom from them as you move forward.

9. The middle path is the intelligent path.

Dwelling on what happened and leaking your feelings all over the place will keep you suffering. Hiding, indulging, or stuffing your feelings doesn’t work in the long-term. Instead, bring intelligence and clarity to your direct experience. Cultivate a fire for peace and ease that serves you well.

10. Finding out who you are is the ultimate freedom.

If you define yourself by your past, you will be living as a fraction of what is possible for you. Say you think of yourself as wronged or abused or victimized. Or you see yourself as having gotten the short end of the stick.

Defining yourself by what happened doesn’t help you now. It’s like wearing clothes that never fit. Is it time to take them off?

It’s easy to believe in a mistaken identity. It feels so true to think we are the result of what happened or the sum total of our thoughts and feelings. But the truest thing about you is that you are aware. Life presents a passing array of experiences – thoughts, emotions, events, people. These all arise in you but are not you.

Live as the awareness that you are – fully alive, here, not in conflict with anything. Know who you are, and the pain of the past will barely be a ripple…on the surface…of the immeasurable vastness of you.

What have you learned about healing the pain from the past that has helped you?

Note: This is the seventh in a series of posts on Life-Changing Facts. Here are the others: fear, attachment, habits, healing the inner critic, happiness, and anger.

Note on September 26, 2014: Thank you all for your comments, which I have enjoyed answering. We have thoroughly exhausted this topic! I am closing comments on this post, but I guarantee the answers you are looking for are here, either in the post or in my responses to other people’s comments below. I love that you are interested in finding peace. It’s right here, available to you!

Always in love,


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  1. safi says

    I have a very hard time letting go of an affair, i recently had. It was nothing more for me then just something that made me curious. She is btw married. the whole thing started on a physical level at first. We didn’t see each other like everyday but we were always in contact first thing in the morning and the last at night. She was into me and i was into her, she will told me a lot about her life, her kids, her past, we hung out and everything was great until i told her i felt about her. She then gradually started backing down and told me that she can’t do this anymore. Now I’m devastated, i can’t think anything but her and our conversation and times together. Its getting pretty bad for i can’t focus on anything, i’m very depressed and lost i try telling myself that she was never mine and i need to let her go but its not working. I have lost a ton of weight because of the break up and in dire need of help.

    • Gail Brenner says

      Thanks for leaving our comment, Safi. I hear you saying that you are in dire need of help, and not the kind of help I can give you in a sentence or two. Something about this situation is stuck in you, and it is a huge opportunity for you to find out what it is. You are grieving a loss, which often involves strong, painful feelings. Facing these feelings directly may be helpful so you can, from your heart, say “thank you” and let her go.

      I recommend that you get some outside help. It could be a counselor in your local area, a wise friend or relative, or someone else you trust. I encourage you to address your reaction so that you can move on and begin to enjoy life again, which is what you deserve.

  2. jewels says

    I am having such trouble it hurts so bad i had this guy who was my bestfriend for 2 years he is very in love with me but he has had sexual relations with other females just a week before we got together it causes are relationship problems because it hurts me every day that he said he was in love with me yet still had sexual relations at this time i.just wasn’t ready to be in a relationship with him i wish none of this would have happen i need help to get over this past so we can be happy and move foward with each other.

    • Gail Brenner says

      Hi Jewels,

      It sounds like it’s time to get very wise with yourself and start listening to your inner wisdom. Just stop, take a breath, and check in to see what is really right for you. If you’re not ready to be in a relationship with someone, there’s no need to move forward. Stay centered within yourself, with what is good for you and what you want, and take very good care of yourself always.

  3. Brittany says

    The funny part after reading this is that I have never bought or really worn clothes that fit, literally. It has been something I have avoided and it has become true in the non-literal sense as well if I truly reflect. With no idea of what I was waiting for or why, it definitely triggers a small sense of fear. Fear of what? I have no idea, still working on that one. My mind like my body are in some sort of despair. Maybe not despair, but something that is limiting my current happiness. At least that, I can feel.

    Thank you for your blog Ms. Brenner.

    • Gail Brenner says

      This is a beautiful starting point, Brittany, to realize that something is limiting your happiness. I hear that literally, and maybe figuratively, your clothes don’t fit. How can you step into being more in alignment with yourself and what you want? Can you meet this despair/fear with your loving, open attention.

      This is fierce and lovely journey you are on. In love and support….

  4. jewels says

    I.am more then ready i just need advice on how to keep the past in the past it causes problems because i always bring the past up.

    • Gail Brenner says

      Hi Jewels,

      Pay close attention to your thoughts and feelings as this is where the past, which is gone, stays alive in your experience. If the thoughts run wild and the feelings remain unexplored, this is where you get stuck. Honor your experience but don’t let these thoughts and feelings guide you – act from the deepest place of wisdom in you.

      There is a ton of information on this site about how to approach troublesome thoughts and feelings. Have a look at the archives, and when you read something that resonates, stop and experiment, integrate it into your own experience. This is a process – and beautiful journey – that ignites your power.

  5. Thomas says

    I have been with the same woman since we were 18 years old. We have been married for two of them. She had two boyfriends before me. I have never been good about getting over her past, she never fully gave herself to either of them but did more making-out and grabbing etc. She even told one of them that she loves them. All this hurts me really bad and I can’t get over it. Day in and day out I ask her questions about her past and this always ends in fight. I know I need to get over it because you can’t change the past but I am having a really hard time. I know I love her but it hurts me that she was with these other guys. I have been seeing someone about this but the thoughts are still popping up in my head and I am still asking my questions.

    • Gail Brenner says

      Hi Thomas,

      You may need to courageously and lovingly meet the feelings that are behind these thoughts. The idea is not to get rid of the thoughts – because this is impossible. They may go away, but don’t make this your goal. Instead, change your relationship to them. I talk a lot about that in this article.

      And when a thought tsunami comes, know that it is propelled by feelings. So see what they are and bring the deepest acceptance to them.

  6. S says

    Good piece I’ll need to read several times. I am really struggling in this area. Was married 21 years. After much volatility and the start of violent behavior I made my husband leave for what I thought would be a short time. He stayed away for a year, sabatoged marriage counseling and basically was drunk and unemployed. Came back and them decided I wasn’t grateful enough to have him back so he got his rich parents to buy him a townhouse to live in and waited fore to file for divorce. I knew he would take me to cleaners and prayed he would have a change of heart. Even tried to get him in marriage counseling again. 7 years and a lot of heartache later I filed and he has caused huge financial date to me. Now he’s actually making good money and going off on trips etc. I’m a Christian and know vengeance is the Lord’s but this is so hurtful, sickening and frustrating. I don’t think it’s good for my kids to have seen such a sloth mooch off of me and then live the high life. And I don’t feel just betrayed by him but by his parents too. If you have more advice I’m all ears.

    • Gail Brenner says

      Thanks for writing, S.

      The advice I have is what’s included in this article, along with much more information about getting unstuck and emotions in the archives. There is so much here that can be helpful to you. Take in the points in the article and apply them to your own experience. There’s no magic fix.

        #6: Recognizing when you’re repeating these frustrating stories in your mind, taking a breath, and refocusing your attention elsewhere.
        #5: Taking responsibility for your own choices and letting go of blaming – blaming others will always keep you stuck
        #1: Lovingly face and meet your own difficult feelings – anger, bitterness, sadness. Not blaming others for these feelings, but accepting that they’re present and learning how to just feel them – without the story.

      Be on fire for your own healing by being willing to change your whole perspective and your relationship to your own feelings. In my experience, that is the path to freedom.

      • julie swanson says

        To meet my own difficult feelings hit me like a ton of bricks. I am constantly talking about how two “horrific” auto accidents have ruined my life! And I constantly have to tell my “horrific” story to every person (even medical profession) before I finally get to my issue! I realize now; me telling my story is not helping me “move on” from my “horrific” state of mind! I have reread my comment; went back and emphasized “horrific.” Why is it so important I express the nature of accident?

        • Gail Brenner says

          Hi Julie,

          My guess is that you haven’t fully met all your feelings about these accidents. You tell the horrific story so that you can avoid feeling what is actually happening in you. At some point when you’re ready, see if you can stop telling the story, which means moving your attention away from your thoughts. Then breathe and be in your body. Make space for the emotions you feel. Let them arise, be, and move through. You may need to do this over and over.

          As I’ve said to others here, if this feels too overwhelming, work with a counselor who can support you. You may find that some of the audios on this site are helpful as well, which you can find here.

  7. P says

    I have been married to my husband for 8 years, together for 15 years since I was 17 and he was 20. I had a rough childhood and my mother kicked me out when I was 15, I lived with my cousin and then at 17 moved in with M(now husband) and his family. We eventually got our own place together, we were young and he may have had an innocent fling and me too but we were young and moved on because we were in love. At age 20 I was diagnosed with cancer, he was by my side throughout my treatment and I honestly don’t think I could of gotten through it without him by my side. After my cancer treatments were over and I was cleared by the doctors I had an affair with my ex boyfriend. M forgave me and we moved forward, he proposed later that year and I said “Yes”. I felt like we were starting a new chapter in our lives. Later that year we found out we were pregnant with our son, we had him and got married the following year. Just the 2 of us went to an island and got married, it was perfect we were so happy to start our family. We bought a home, had good jobs, all good things. We had our 2nd child 4 years ago and I have felt completely content great husband, perfect kids. I was so happy to go to work and come home to care for them, always cooking, cleaning, trying to do it all. My husband has his ups and downs, he would always get a little depressed once in a while, but he would blame work or of course the not enought sex, never enough sex for him! We would talk fix the sex part untill the next time it came up. He never wanted to change jobs because he was worried he would never make enough to support us. Just this past year around Easter he started pushing me away and saying things I’ve never heard before, like I want you to promise you will be my best friend forever regardless of what happens to us, he used to only talk about me and him/our family forever. He started to tell the kids that daddy will always be here for them even if mom and dad aren’t together. I asked why he was depressed, reached out to his friends, asked if he was having an affair and he denied it, but kept pushing me away at the same time telling me he was in love with me. I cried everyday for months and he watched me and lied to me. Turns out he was having an affair for about 2 months, I felt like this is the end this is what he was preparing me for. I just felt numb, how could my husband, soulmate, best friend, my everything betray me and our children like this. I heard conversations he was having and I felt like I don’t know this man, he isn’t the same person I fell in love with and married. He said he wasn’t happy and I didn’t make hi feel attractive or wanted, this affair made him happy. He now wants to fix us and get our family back, it’s been constant ups and downs the past 3 months since I’ve known. We currently seperated, he says this is what he wants and will do anything to get me back, but I don’t see anything. I want to feel special again, wanted, beautiful. All we do is argue and point fingers about the past flaws in our relationship. I don’t know how to move forward and heal. I thought time apart would help but it just leaves me alone, depressed, womdering what direction my life is going , and worst wondering what he is doing, if he isn;t calling or texting me then is he texting her. I would of bet my life on him never doing this to me. Please help if you have any advice. I know we both love eachother but I just wonder if we can move forward. I feel like my mind is my own worst enemy.


    • Gail Brenner says

      You will never find relief in this ongoing story, P. You must go directly to your own thoughts and feelings. Feel the feeling, and realize that you are so much bigger than them. Then you can begin to tap into the wisdom in you that can intelligently guide you.

      As I said to someone else here, I have written about these topics many times, and you can find these articles in the archives. I can only guide. The true healing comes when you get serious about letting go of the story and welcoming your own emotional reactions. Be fully open and present to your own in-the-moment experience. This is where you’ll discover peace.

  8. Stephanie says

    I need help letting go of pain. I know that sounds very broad. I feel so weighted. I don’t know what it’s like to be freely happy. I am 35 and never really accomplished or finished anything. Ive had issues with debilitating anxiety and very low self esteem. I am easily hurt and withdrawal easily. I get caught up in the past a lot. I have a hard time with the loss of my grandparents. I have an ailing father and can’t separate the sadness I feel in regards to how he chooses to live his life with my own life. I feel like I am in mourning for the man he used to be but he’s never been perfect (not that anyone is). He was an alcoholic when I was young so my home life was very rocky and lonely as an long child. And his drinking has never stopped. I just want to separate all the pain from ME. I have no idea who I am and I hate it. Anything can hit me like a ton of bricks and I get upset and withdraw. I want to be mentally and emotionally healthy, happy and FREE. I want the past to be in the past.
    Any help would be great. Thank you

    • Gail Brenner says

      Hi Stephanie,

      Somehow you found your way to this post that is about 10 insights and tools that you can apply to your own situation to begin to be free of the past. This IS the help that I can offer. Read each one and apply it to your own experience. Take your time to see beyond the story of what happened. Take responsibility for your own thoughts, feelings – and your own healing.

      I have written about these topics many times, and you can find these articles in the archives. I can only guide. The true healing comes when you get serious about letting go of the story and welcoming your own emotional reactions. Be fully open and present to your own in-the-moment experience. This is where you’ll discover peace.

  9. Steve-O says

    I’ve been struggling with anxiety my whole life, and while I thought I had gotten over it, it came (brutally) back into play not long ago. You see, I’m an English teacher living and working in Japan. Last week, I had a class go terribly, and my anxiety came back into play. Worst of all: a student who otherwise liked me (as in LIKED me – she gave me her email so we could meet up for dinner) now wants nothing to do with me (and was actually ANNOYED with me during class). I’m absolutely devastated, as I thought this was over with – not to mention, I’m living in a small town, and find it difficult to meet other people. Letting go – despite all my reading on the subject – is not easy

    • Gail Brenner says

      This calls for you to be very kind to yourself right now, Steve-O. It sounds like you have had some success dealing with your anxiety in the past, so maybe you can put into action the things that helped you before.

      I know it’s very difficult to be with the painful feelings around this incident, but they are there. Can you be with them the way you would with a child who is hurting? Can you say soothing statements to yourself when these feelings are present? Take time out and do things you enjoy. Find one person who feels safe to you, maybe a stranger, and look them in the eye and say hello, just for a few seconds. Slow down, breathe, and help yourself to feel safe again.

      Thanks for writing here. Sending support to you…

  10. Sandy says

    I have experienced the worst feelings in my life and now I am hurting to find out the person I cared about is a kleptomaniac. And has seriosly hurt me. Now I am having to deal with the pain. And he is telling me he is sorry. The sorry is not enough anymore. And I want hime to undo everything he has done. And someone told me what would be a successfully undoing. I have seriously thinking about that. Also I have to deal with my emotions which have become numb.

    • Gail Brenner says

      Hi Sandy,

      You might want to consider if this is a person you want in your life. If not, have the courage to move on. Yes, sorry is often not enough. The person saying sorry also needs to be committed to a change in behavior so you can trust again.

  11. Jaslyn K. says

    Thank you so much so share these facts. 😉 Being a young mother myself, I met a wrong man in my life and since then I couldn’t forgive myself for this failed marriage. I hide my wounds and refuse to accept the fact that I had made wrong choices in life and each time I remember the details, my anxiety got worse. I tried hard to suppress my emotions and opening myself up is so painful. Do I really have to open up my wounds before I can heal my past?

    • Gail Brenner says

      I don’t know if you have to open the wounds, Jaslyn. That is so painful! But I wonder if suppressing your emotions and refusing to accept responsibility for your choices is working for you. If not, then the other way is to say “yes” to what happened and welcome the emotions into a loving aware space to let them be seen. There is a saying: “the only way out is through.” And I know in my own experience that this is true. I have experienced tremendous freedom – and relief – from allowing painful emotions to be felt, seen, and experienced. It takes a lot of energy to resist the truth.

      It sounds like you are terrified of being with the truth of your experience, but there’s a part of you that knows this is the best thing to do. Maybe you can start by meeting this fear with loving openness. You can read about befriending fear here. There is also more about fear in the archives of this site. Also, working with a counselor in your local area may help you have support as you peak into what you’ve been avoiding.

  12. Trina says

    Ive been married for 32yrs and have 4 adult children. When I married my husband I was not accepted by his family. I live opposite them on our farm. My past emotional hurt keeps arising and I have been to therapy but find triggersnoccur on a n almost daily basis. An example of this would be my husband spending everyday running around for his aging father (he is a great son) dropping work and the 3 hours a week we are meant to spend a week together without hestitation. Yet my husband never has done anything for me. When i was in premature labour he was too bust to take me to hospital. Instead his mother took me. I go yon holidays by myself as he is too busy. I dont go to important family events on my side of the family because he is too busy. Everytime his dad rings he is wanting my husband to do stuff. I stew inside and feel hurt ..so deeply hurt that i get angry…following this i then feel like a mean horrible person and then feel guilty…We no longer really have a relationship…he tells me he loves mebut i just feel nothing anymore..and I dont ask him for anythjng..as he is always so tired …ive spent the years caring for him and my eldest daughter who has a disability, his mother but have distanced myself from his father for fear of screaming my feelings at him……I want freedom from these negative thoughts and triggers…i want to move past this misery .. and be happy..

    • Gail Brenner says

      Hi Trina,
      Great that you want freedom from negative thoughts and want to move past the misery. So when you’re ready, put this whole story aside and follow the points in this post. Take each one in and start to apply it to your own experience in the moment as your life unfolds. This would be an excellent beginning for you. Wishing you well on this journey…

  13. kishor says

    I am in love wid a girl for more dan 3 years and she was my bestie from childhood and later on turned up to love..she got caught in her house and her parents are opposing her to core and blackmiling emotionally that they will harm me and she is scared of that and she is avoiding me at present..but the past we had could never be explained in words..we were living for each other mentally everyday right from morning till sleep..I several times think that its all over n my love is burried and i think to move on but our love is stopping me and pulling me back..I get lots of positive support and advices from my parents and friends and now they all are tired in process of making me change n live happily but am still dying daily eid her thoughts hoping tat she turns up one day…what shld i do to make myself move on happily..nothing is impossible wch i knw but really am nt able to forget her and my love..
    Thank you

    • Gail Brenner says

      Take it day by day, Kishor. Make commitment within yourself for your own peace and happiness. Then walk through the steps in this post and apply them to your own experience. Once you are truly ready to move on, take every moment and figure out how to make it a better one.

  14. RN says

    Hi Gail,

    I was with my ex boyfriend from 2008. it was literally love at first site for the both of us. We were together for 3 years but i knew i was wrong because i was already committed to someone (not yet married) but i couldnt help how i felt for this man. it was the best time of my life. We broke up last year as i was trying to behave sour and get out of this relationship before i hurt him. My husband (now) and i were having a long distance relationship. I just couldnt help myself as i had never felt like that before. I got married this year and its been almost 2 years since i broke up with my ex boyfriend and i cant let go. He doesnt bother to contact me at all … i message him like hes my online journal just to make myself feel better that hes still in the picture. 3 months and i havent got a single response from him. I dont know if im suffering from a heartbreak or why i cant let go of my ex boyfriend. I thought i was over him until recently i cant get him out of my head or my heart. Its been so long since ive seen him and not a day goes by that i dont think about him. I feel like hes ruined me emotionally although this entire thing was my fault. I just dont understand how I can still be stuck on him. My marriage was having troubles for the first couple of months; but i felt like maybe because i am still emotionally attached to my ex boyfriend. I need some tips on how i can get through this. I feel like an emaotional wreck. I was good for a while kept my social circle big, attended parties just to not think about it. Now its like the feelings went away but are coming back. I am going to start praying for a new me (I maybe a little distanced from God) and focus on my marriage and i hope this doesnt last too long. I’m now trying to play tricks with my mind so i can stay happy with my husband and hopefully one day my ex boyfriend is completely out of my heart.

    • Gail Brenner says

      I’m sorry, RN, but I don’t have tips for you. What I discuss on this site is not a quick fix for feelings or difficult situations. What I talk about here is how to meet all of our experience consciously – with love and awareness – and the wisdom that arises from doing that. Begin by being honest with yourself about why you make the choices you are making. Are you driven by fear or need? Is that what prevents you from showing up fully in your marriage? If so, be loving with yourself as you let fear or need be present.

      There are no easy answers here, but you can choose the road of authenticity. Be the best partner you can be for your husband, which includes no longer texting your ex boyfriend. It might take some time, but let yourself unhook from him – for your own peace and happiness. Choose a life of ease and harmony for yourself – then see how you can put that into action every day.

  15. Cassandra says

    I had a difficult childhood. My mother was diagnosed with cancer when I was 3. My father was in the Navy so he was always gone. We moved every 3 years. Shortly after I turned 12, i had been taken out of school for a little over a month so I could help take care of her, then she passed away. I did get spanked as a child, but nothing I would call abuse. But when I think.about the time I had with my mom, i have a hard time remembering positive moments. But easily remember are the very sad memories i have of watching her die (over the last month she was alive.)

    My father worked a lot, so from then on, i basically took care of myself. I grew up too fast, I think. My father made a lot of selfish decisions, he still does.

    Recently I’ve decided to stop trying to communicate with him. Any time, maybe once a year, he’ll contact my older sister or i, to bother us about sending him money that we ‘owe’ him.

    I would be the first person to say I have Daddy issues. But now i just want them and (primarily) him, behind me. Usually it’s the parent that disowns the child, not the other way around.

    I don’t want him to have that emotional control over me and I hate how upset I get, at just the THOUGHT of him. Talking to him is not possible. I’ve tried multiple times over many years, but I’m done. I don’t have the strength to squeeze blood from a rock.

    How can I move on and let all the resentment and hurt behind?

    • Gail Brenner says

      Dear Cassandra,

      “How can I move on and let all the resentment and hurt behind?” Make the choice in every moment to not feed this disappointing story. It’s great that you don’t want him to have that emotional control. When the thought of him comes up, say, “I see you, but I’m not going to let you control me.” Then take a breath, feel the sensations in your body, and move on. At this point, it’s not about the story of what happened. It’s about being empowered in the moments of your own life to be free of this. It’s probably hurting you way more than it’s hurting him anyway. So the hurt isn’t serving. Envision yourself fully alive, then step into that vision and live it.

      • Anj325 says

        I love this response..”Envision yourself fully alive, then step into that vision and live it.” Beautiful words. Thank you.

  16. says

    Dear Gail – firstly, I enjoyed your post, but more importantly, it is so lovely to see all of your supportive and helpful comments to every comment posted. I view this as a true demonstration of the care and responsibility you show in your profession and the respect that you have for your clients.

    I, too, have told the story – and I just don’t want to anymore! It feels ‘done’ and is completely boring to me. However, the feelings are still there. Over the course of my adult life, I have not enjoyed positive romantic relationships and I have never really felt safe or lovable in relationships. This is the result of the parenting I received and significant trauma as a 15-16 year old. My fear is that I will miss out on ever feeling truly loved by another because my defences are so strong.

    My longest relationship was four years, with the father of my daughter. This ended because he was an unmotivated, marijuana smoker (I thought he would change!  )

    I do love and enjoy being me and have become so much better at taking care of myself. I meditate twice daily for 20 minutes, have been to psychologists (diagnosed with delayed PTSD) and attended counselling, when I feel the need, and try to go on a retreat each year. I read self-help books as well as those by the spiritual masters to broaden my perspective on life.

    I have also raised a 13 year old daughter, of whom I am immensely proud of and I am also proud of myself for being a conscious, non-violent, loving parent.

    While I do enjoy intermittent enlightenment, when it comes to the world of dating, i feel hassled and obligated and my primary drive is to be alone. These experiences are very emotionally charged, and despite all of my good work towards freeing and healing myself, after each date/short lived relationship I scramble to solitude.

    My friends have complete faith in my ability to overcome this struggle and I am lucky enough to attract good, intelligent, decent men, but I am yet to find somebody sufficient appealing to me to take it to the next level. I understand this is most likely because I am emotionally unavailable, due to the fear and discomfort I feel. It’s difficult to stay positive about relationships and rally the energy to date. I know that ultimately it will be worth it, but I could use some wise words.

    Very much appreciated,


    • Gail Brenner says

      Sounds like a lovely path you are on, Amy! The next step is to meet this fear that comes up around relationship. Get to know it, welcome it, and become an expert in how it overtakes you. Only then will you be able to find the space to make a choice that is not fear-driven.

      Going the next level in a relationship is stepping right into the unknown. You just don’t know what will happen. But it’s exhilarating! The only way to stop the struggle is to face it completely. Then you discover you are already fulfilled, and a good relationship is icing on the cake.

  17. Anj325 says

    Hi Ms. Brenner,

    Thank you so much for your post. It really resonated with me. And, I really enjoyed your ten steps to letting go of the past. I wish I could carry these steps with me on a daily basis. I come from parents that are very dysfunctional and have left me feeling very angry. I have an emotionally unsupportive father. I recently got out of a relationship and I realized that my ex is a lot like my father. To sum up the reason I ended this relationship – I was hit in the head by a metal gate on a Saturday night. My ex wanted to take me to the er, but his sister talked him out of it, said I was fine, and lied about getting hit on the head by the same gate and saying nothing happened to her, so I should be fine. She screamed at me while I was crying, so my ex gave up and told us all to go to sleep. I also didn’t demand going to the er because I’m still overcoming a people pleasing aspect of my personality. I wanted to pretend that I was fine. Two days later my sister took me to the doctor and I was diagnosed with a concussion. I was left feeling so angry at my ex and his sister. This happened over the Fourth of July and I still feel angry about it. When I communicated my anger to my ex, he took no accountability for what happened, questioned me for saying what I was saying, made me feel like I was crazy for reacting, and his sister never apologized to me. He distanced himself from me, he said we should talk when I feel better because he didn’t want to deal with my while I was still upset. He also said that i was making him upset. I thought this was selfish and I broke up with him over text. He said ok and we never talked after that. Sometimes I still feel angry for his response, ie not taking accountability or even discussing what happened, and for the fact that his sister never apologized to me. I feel like this anger is coming from a place of approval. Am I seeking their approval for my feelings? I just feel sooo angry about it. I feel like his actions toward me mirror my parents. My father is a good person, but he doesn’t know how to be emotionally supportive. Instead, I have always been the one to provide him with emotional support. How do you get emotional support from others, ie how do you demand the needs you feel like you deserve? I’m trying to break a pattern that has been set up in my life since childhood. Thank you so much for your blog!

    • Gail Brenner says

      Hi Anj325,

      You can’t control the kind of support you get from other people. You can demand all you want, but you will get what you get. That’s the nature of it. Demanding doesn’t make it happen. So it’s your job to come to peace within yourself by looking at your need for support. Let go of trying to get it where it’s not available, and fill your life with loving, sane people who are happy to be there for you.

      Better yet, give up looking outside yourself to get what you think you need. Work directly with your own thoughts and feelings to discover that the happiness you seek is already here in every moment.

  18. ADF says

    My bf of three years refuses to let go of a past relationship with his ex’s daughter. He raised her like his own until she was four. They separated. He still got to see her at least once a week bc his grandmother watched her after school and he would sneak to see her. Time went on, her mom was in a relationship with a new guy and she found out about the sneaking visits. They droid my bf to stop seeing her because she had a relationship with her dad and the new bf wanted to build a relationship with her too…as a family. This was nearly three years ago my bf was told that he is not to contact her anymore, period. he refuses to take her pictures down from the entertainment center and the fridge. I can’t put pictures up of my child that lives with us because there is no room. He won’t build a relationship with my son because he doesn’t want to replace ‘her’. He cries and gets sucked into these depressions over her. I’ve told him to seek help, but he won’t. I mentioned taking down the pictures and he jumped all over me. He won’t let go of her even though she will never be part of his life again and he refuses to let me or my son in. It’s been three years and he hasn’t said he loves me. He thinks I’m jealous and I don’t care about his feelings when I tell him he needs to let go. What can I do?

    • Gail Brenner says

      Hello, ADF, You have to start getting honest with yourself and determine what is truly best for your son and for you. You need to decide for yourself. But I know what I would do. If I were with a man who didn’t treat my child with love and acceptance, I’d be out the door in a heartbeat.

  19. says

    I think you hit the nail in the head with the very first point saying that “the past isnt really the past”. How so true, if one views it that way. Actually, I have never seen that way, but your post has managed to give me a new perspective of looking at things now. Ah !! am already feeling at ease. Thanks for this wonderful post.

    • Gail Brenner says

      So glad you stopped by, Ganeshkumar! Yes, the past is done. If it’s still a problem, it’s about how these thoughts and feelings are arising now. This is actually very empowering, because you can learn to relate to these experiences so they don’t weigh you down any longer. I love that possibility!

  20. Hazel cooper says

    I liked this boy,he promised never to leave and he left after 2 years of being with me,we never dated and I’m 16,but we liked each other only, I’m sure that no one else caused the fight , but he simply left. Then, he came back..asked me to come back, a requested for 2 months and I always liked him, now he behaves so different, his parents called my parents home and told them some horrible things, I love my parents more than anything else in this world and I am still disappointed. My mistakes surely did contribute but I was never completely yay fault . I still cannot get over it. His current behaviour causes pain.

    • Gail Brenner says

      Hi Hazel,

      Thanks for taking the time to write your comment. I’m so glad that you have a good relationship with your parents. Tell them how you’re feeling so you can get support from them. Sometimes unfair things happen in the world. The best we can do – which is a lot – is to learn from what happens so we can make better choices in the future.

      Don’t spend too much time thinking about all of this. Go out with your friends – do things that you enjoy. You’re making the space to find your feet on the ground again so you can move on. And you will. xx

  21. Shane says

    Hi Gail,

    I broke up with my ex a year ago after 6 years together. This has absolutely been the toughest year of my life, it feels like everyday brings a new heartache.
    We had built our dream home together, and within less than a year of moving in he decided he didn’t want me in his life anymore. To be honest I didn’t care, I hadn’t been happy for a very long time. What I found hard to get past, and still am, is the way he treated me during the separation. I found letters from him to people telling them what a horrible person I was, I was a gold digger etc. Not surprisingly every single mutual friend never spoke to me again.
    In the breakup I didn’t fight for what was mine, I let him keep our home and I walked away with 25k and 20k in credit card debt. I didn’t want him to go without, I didn’t want to hurt him.
    All year I’ve bordered on bankruptcy and have done it extremely tough. It turns out he had hidden a lot of money away and he is living the high life. Even now he is overseas for a month.
    I just find it impossible to get past this, I can’t fathom that someone you cared for can treat you so badly and want the worst for you.
    I have searched google for advice on how to move on so many times….will it really happen??

    Kind Regards

    • Gail Brenner says

      Hi Shane,

      You’ve searched enough on google, and I’m sure you’ve gotten some very useful advice. It won’t “just happen.” It takes you doing the work in the moments of your life. When the thoughts appear, what choice do you make? When feelings and urges come, what do you do with them?

      There is no magic wand to wave to make it go away. You absolutely have the power within you to find the wisdom within and choose happiness. You might consider thanking your lucky stars that you are out of this relationship, given his behavior. Now you have the chance to make wise choices.

      My recommendation to you is to not read one more blog post about this. By now, you know what to do. OK, you got screwed over, but now you get to decide how you want the moments of your life to be. It’s all about how you relate to your experience. Do you let it run you or do you choose what you want?

      BTW, he’s probably not suffering about this, but you are. The way you’re holding this situation is hurting you way more than anyone else. It doesn’t make sense to keep yourself from living fully in the world any longer.

  22. Chetan says

    Dear Gail,

    I am becoming rebel day by day harming my relations with my family. I had a really bad breakup 2 years ago, due to it i lost my smile, my confidence and i am down with depression and low self esteem . Though i tried my best not to think about my past but it recoils often. I have gained weight and now i hate myself. I have no tears left to cry.
    I was a once a happy smiling helping confident person who loved myself.
    I am just 22 and i have a very long way to go in my life.
    Please help me ,I dont want to lose myself and my family because of nature.


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