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.

Comments, reports, or questions? Are you having trouble being free from the pain of the past? All are welcome…

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.

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  1. avatar Arlene
    Posted August 2, 2012 at 6:02 am | Permalink

    A very meaningful post to me, loved it. And love this series.

    Thank you so much

    • Posted August 2, 2012 at 11:24 am | Permalink

      It’s my pleasure, Arlene. Love to you…

      • avatar Sean
        Posted October 19, 2013 at 1:52 pm | Permalink

        I am a couple o months away from being 40. Your posts pinpoints everything I feel and do. Now I am trying to raise my own little 5yo girl, and am truly seeking the way to my happiness for myself. So I can try to lead my little girl down a better path. While I will never do the things to her that happened to me, I know she feels my emotions, and I really need to nip this thing in butt. Thank you for your posts.

        • Posted October 19, 2013 at 9:21 pm | Permalink

          Hi Sean,

          I love that you are so insightful about how best to relate to your daughter. Even though she may feel your emotions, she can also feel your love and good intention and wish to model happiness for her. Raising her is beautiful motivation for you to face what is difficult and scary and find your way to happiness.

          Be very forthcoming with your love for her and toward yourself. It’s always true: love heals.

          In love and support to you…

  2. avatar Sandi
    Posted August 2, 2012 at 2:50 pm | Permalink

    Thank you! I’ve always felt like I should have been more affected by things that hurt me in the past, but reading this makes me realize that I handle them in a healthy way. I wasn’t able to articulate why or how I’m able to leave those experiences behind, but you’ve done that for me. I love your writing.

    • Posted August 3, 2012 at 7:06 am | Permalink

      Thanks so much for your comment, Sandi. There is no right or wrong when it comes to matters of the heart. You respond how you do. Some people seem to be naturally resilient – not only making it through a difficult upbringing, but somehow thriving. May your happiness shine everywhere…

    • avatar Sam santiago
      Posted July 12, 2013 at 3:43 pm | Permalink

      I agree with u

  3. Posted August 2, 2012 at 3:30 pm | Permalink

    I’ve missed your posts. This one was well worth the wait and relevant as always.
    Thank you.

  4. Posted August 2, 2012 at 3:52 pm | Permalink

    Hi Gail,

    I really resonate with the way in which, in all of your examples, you assign our personal power to the present moment. That there’s no power really in the past unless we lend it that with our choices and focus in the present. I learned that one the hard way, eventually having to choose freedom and peace even when it seemed to contradict what was “true”.

    Only after I took that risk, stopped believing the negative stories about my past, could I see that they were, in fact, just stories. Thank you!

    • Posted August 3, 2012 at 7:09 am | Permalink

      Thanks for sharing your experience, Seth. What I love about your comment is that you said you “took that risk” to stop believing stories, to see if what seemed so true really was.

      If we assume that what we think is true is, we might stay stuck for a very long time. Best to investigate – to know for sure what is true or not. Stories come and go, but You are here always…

  5. avatar Diane
    Posted August 2, 2012 at 8:44 pm | Permalink

    This is juicy! Thank you, Gail, for your gift of insight. It takes a lot to keep grounded and this post is one I will keep coming back to.

    “the immeasurable vastness of you”…..


    • Posted August 3, 2012 at 7:11 am | Permalink

      Glad it helped, Diane. Yes, keep coming back as often as needed. When we are fed up with the suffering, the momentum of patterns still runs. So it can take diligence and perseverance until the energy of the pattern dies down. Stay alive to what you really want…

    • Posted August 9, 2012 at 12:51 pm | Permalink

      Welcome to you, Diane, beautiful you. Thanks for taking the time to comment.

  6. Posted August 3, 2012 at 8:05 pm | Permalink

    Hi Gail,

    Lovely post as usual. Letting go of our past resentments leads us to that place where we can begin to find inner peace.

    I’ve had times in my past where I found it easier to play the victim card. But as I grew older and hopefully wiser, I’ve realized harboring these resentments doesn’t serve me well.

    This line speaks to me – “Being stuck in the past means that a part of your heart is closed. ” So true. Thank you for sharing your wisdom. Have a great weekend.

    • Posted August 6, 2012 at 8:04 am | Permalink

      Hi Cathy,

      I appreciate what it’s like to somehow automatically fall into playing the victim card. And by grace, we hear that there is another way.

      Sometimes it’s like giving a few drops of oil to the creaky tin man. At first, giving up the victim role feels wrong. But then wisdom sets in, and we find the inner peace we are looking for. It didn’t actually go anywhere. The releasing of the victim card reveals that peace was here all along.

      Beautiful to hear from you….

  7. Posted August 5, 2012 at 5:28 pm | Permalink

    I was immediately reminded of a dinner I had with my mom and some of my friends when I was in my 30′s. My mom regaled them with tales of my childhood, describing a childhood that was very interesting, but it wasn’t mine! I couldn’t relate at all to the picture she was painting. I realized then that my childhood had no objective existence. As A Course in Miracles says, “The only wholly true thought we can hold about the past is that it is not here.”

    • Posted August 6, 2012 at 8:07 am | Permalink

      I love this, Galen! There is so much wisdom in realizing “the past” is not an objective thing that happened the way we remember it. It’s only a set of thoughts and feelings – that are showing up now! And of course these are never going to be the same between two people.

      How fortunate for you that this happened so you could move through any way in which you were still holding on to your past.

  8. Posted August 6, 2012 at 2:39 pm | Permalink

    #3 really resonates with me.
    So many people come to my office to and tell me that they are healing because they are consciously putting their stuff and garbage “in the past”.
    Putting their stuff in the past is like stuffing ten pounds of garbage into a sandwich bag.
    It will eventually spill out and cause problems in their life.

    • Posted August 9, 2012 at 12:50 pm | Permalink

      Hi Wendy,

      Putting “stuff” in the past is really ignoring what is here right now in the present. As I’m sure you know, when we commit to allowing everything, we open up to the possibility of freedom. No walls = no resistance. Aaahhh, what a relief!

  9. Posted August 10, 2012 at 10:55 am | Permalink

    Lovely post Gail.

    I really like how you emphasised that you should not forget your past but rather make peace with it.

    Truly learning who you are and what you want to achieve in your life is definitely the way to live in the present.

    Your post reminds me of the following quote I would like to share:

    “Your past is always your past. Even if you forget it, it remembers you.”
    ― Sarah Dessen,

    • Posted August 13, 2012 at 9:37 pm | Permalink

      Hi Jason,

      Thanks so much for stopping by and for your comment.

      To be honest, I don’t think it’s possible to forget the past. And some of those difficult events we have repeated a million times in our minds, so they are very well-conditioned. Which points to the dilemma: how to be happy. Making peace with the past so you can live in the present, without the residue holding you back, seems to be the way. Sounds like that is your experience as well.

  10. avatar Kyle Cogan
    Posted August 17, 2012 at 12:23 am | Permalink

    A very inspiring read! just reading through this post has made me think about how i could have handled things better in life. I won’t deny i had anger management issues resentment or felt i was hard done by but i’ve done my best to move on from that and the anger issues i once had are nonexistent. I also won’t deny that i do sometimes fleetingly do delve back into the past and think about how i could have handled being bullied at school but i do manage to pull myself out of it damn quick. Just a very interesting read of this blog and i am one to comment on blogs that i come across and find interesting and informative. I went to a group with uniting care in my home community which was an up close and personal group which talked about friendships relationships etc mainly to find out who i really was I should probably shut up and stop talking about myself too much here it’s just so onesided.

  11. Posted August 19, 2012 at 10:47 am | Permalink

    Just what I needed to read right now. I’ve got to stop letting the past contaminate the present – oh so hard to do but I’m going to keep trying. :)

    • Posted August 19, 2012 at 9:10 pm | Permalink

      Great to hear from you, Sandee. Thanks so much for stopping by.

      You sound like you are in the right place to let go of how the past has been affecting you. Focus on your own peace and happiness, and let the past be finished, because it is. I love your enthusiasm and your fire.

  12. Posted August 25, 2012 at 5:44 am | Permalink

    This doesn’t work for me right now.

    In my past, I was told bad thing weren’t happening, I wasn’t allowed to have feelings and I wasn’t allowed to express an opinion about being treated badly.

    This message again pressures me once again to “move on” and that being mistreated isn’t important.

    I want to claim my right to have my feelings, to have it expressed that being mistreated is not okay and to spend time understanding fully my abuse.

    I think there is a time to be with the story and deal with that fully and there is also a time to live life fully beyond a particular story.

    I’m curious what your thoughts on this are.

    • Posted August 25, 2012 at 8:48 am | Permalink

      Hi Marie,

      Thank you so much for writing. I do completely agree with you that there is a time to be with the story. In situations of abuse, sometimes the story needs to be told many times – not in the sense of wallowing in it but with the intention of understanding and ultimately releasing. That said, sometimes we need to wallow, too, and that’s fine.

      The problem is when things get stuck. If your life now is hindered by a preoccupation with the past, then there might be something to do and heal. If it is important to say that you were mistreated and have feelings about that, then follow your instinct, but also be aware if you aren’t making progress with it.

      There is not a one-size-fits-all model. Each situation is delicate and each person’s process needs to be respected. For people who are in the midst of understanding the story and feel the need to be with it for now, they can also know that freedom is possible when the timing is right.

      If you feel like responding, I’m happy to hear you.

      Sending love…

      • Posted August 29, 2012 at 9:12 pm | Permalink

        I have always been extremely impressed and appreciated that you respond to comments.

        Your comments above are very helpful.

        The only thought I might leave with you is that a blog post such as this might be even more complete, well rounded, powerful and “hit the mark” if you can anticipate and include remarks to address some of the common “yes, but … ” questions to your post.

        Your way of thinking is revolutionary and can be a difficult leap from a conventional traditional western lifestyle, so I think people need help bridging the old style thinking that they come from, are emersed in and is all around them to your approach that often turns a lot of conventional thinking on it’s head.

        However, this is all easy for me to say …. you have much experience providing an excellent blog and explaining a much needed alternative way of thinking.

        • Posted August 30, 2012 at 9:57 am | Permalink

          Hi Marie,

          I’m glad you see what I present as revolutionary. Our conventional conditioned way of being may be good enough, but it is not satisfactory once you know that abiding, lasting peace and happiness are possible. It takes a radical departure from all ideas and beliefs about everything, including our ideas of ourselves, to realize this.

          I appreciate your suggestions and the need for bridging the gap. I will keep that in mind. And I am happy to address any other “yes, but’s” in the comments.

  13. Posted August 28, 2012 at 5:42 pm | Permalink

    At one point in my life I was a very busy dude—literally swimming, drowning, suffocating in a never ending succession of interruptions. Between office phone, cell phone, email and text messages I could literally receive or make seven hundred to a thousand transmissions a day.

    Each one of these transmissions was accompanied by an auditory signal of some kind—a ring, a ring tone, a chirp, an alert, a blast. These sounds would instantly alert me to the need to take action of some kind–to answer, to e-mail, to text, to take a message, to transmit information, to look up data.

    After years of this career, after being overwhelmed by this constant badgering, sometimes running eighteen hours in a day, six and seven days a week—I was at the end of my rope.

    On those rare off day all I really wanted was silence, a period of no noise, no decisions, no interruptions.

    (If you ever wanted piss me off just decide to call me on my off day to chit-chat.)

    Well, thankfully, I have a lot more freedom now, a bit more peace. I’m certainly happier, less stressed.

    But, I’ve noticed, I’ll watch a video of me during that hyper-active period now. On the tape, I’ll hear one of my devices going off. Even though this might be a film from six years ago, I’ll immediately start searching for a phone, patting my pockets, trying to answer that six year old call.

    Though I’ll quickly realize it’s only the video, for a time I’m tense, anxious, as if I’ve been transported back to an unpleasant time in my life.

    This is a past I’d really like to let go.

    • Posted August 30, 2012 at 9:39 am | Permalink

      Welcome to you, Adam! You sound like you have made some wise choices and that you are reaping the benefits. Beautiful to hear.

      You are describing a conditioned response that is so automatic – not only in your behavior of looking for the device, but in how the body reacts. My suggestion would be to immediately let go of the story about the past, and just focus on allowing the bodily sensations that are here in the present. Don’t touch them – simply let them be and move through. This is the medicine for conditioning. Whether or not the sensations go away, you stay peaceful as the awareness in which they come and go.

      The past is already finished – it is kept alive by keeping the story going. No story means simply presence – and no problem.

      Best wishes to you…

  14. Posted September 1, 2012 at 5:43 am | Permalink

    Thank you so much for sharing your personal story Gail. You are inspiring! I too have spent so many years working on finding freedom and peace within myself and am letting go, moment to moment and by surrounding myself with peaceful, loving people. My thought is that my childhood was taken, but I will not let these important years be taken away by rage and anger. I don’t want to wake up one day 20 years from now thinking and feeling the same way. I want to let go and live fully. After all, we only have this life, let’s make it amazing! Thank you. With gratitude, Sofia

    • Posted September 1, 2012 at 2:52 pm | Permalink

      Hi Sofia,

      I love that you don’t want to live with your life directed by the thought, “My childhood was taken.” You can let go little by little. Each time you turn away from the thoughts, you stop feeding your identification with them. Eventually, they become like weather, just passing by. Every time you step into the now and let the residue of the past go, you are free. And those moments of freedom add up.

      The only sane place, where true, stable happiness is possible, where you are not identified with thoughts about the past, is now. Live in this awareness as much as possible and you will see that life is amazing right here and now.

      Love and support to you…

  15. avatar Sandy
    Posted September 22, 2012 at 5:22 am | Permalink

    Great article. I perhaps know/am aware of these things but just not able to move on. I am kind off waiting for person who gave me pain to come and apologize to me…which perhaps I know for sure is never going to happen. I go into endless loop of why…why..why me…??? Why cant the other person see the pain they have put me in…All I need in acknowledge my presence and not treat me like a door mat…..Am I expecting too much…I am really stuck …..

    • Posted September 22, 2012 at 6:12 am | Permalink

      Hi Sandy, and welcome to you…

      What I love about your comment is that you know you are stuck. You know that it’s not working for you to wait for an apology and ask “why me.” Great. In a sense, you are treating yourself like a doormat because you are not empowering yourself to discover that you can be free of this. Fully acknowledge your own presence, rather than waiting for someone else to do that for you.

      Here is what I would suggest: Stop giving your focus to the other person and to what happened. Yes, something happened that caused pain in you. Let’s fully acknowledge that. Now you get to decide how you would like to move forward. What can you learn from what happened? Take these lessons with you. How can you support your own happiness? Let joy live in you and follow it now, and now, and now. Be around supportive people. Every time you start thinking about the past and this person, say “no” to that habit and don’t feed the story. Focus on the presence that is here now, the wonder of life itself. You are alive!

      Don’t be half-dead by carrying the heavy past around. Little by little, bring your attention here, this breath, these sounds. There is so much love available – let your heart open to it…

      Feel free to let me know how it’s going. Love to you…

      • avatar Sandy
        Posted September 22, 2012 at 8:14 am | Permalink

        Hi Gail – Thanks for a quick response. And as you can see, I am like continuously/desperately looking for solace. I will follow your advice and see how it goes. One personal handicap I have is I am constantly looking for external strokes. Feel happy when someone outside keeps praising, thanking me :( This is really making it bad. I need to change my outlook. I have a great family and the love me. My wife does say in nice way, that I am more sweet and helping with people outside family then I am with them. I know this is true. There is lot’s that I want to set right with my life. As you said, I am alive, and I am really enjoying the phase I am going thru and I am observing myself and my reactions thru it. Hopefully I will grow more stronger and a complete person. Thanks…You take care….

        • avatar Sandy
          Posted September 23, 2012 at 2:05 am | Permalink

          How to let go and forgive without hating the other person? Any one? Any advice….I feel that only way to heal completely is to give it back to the person who hurt you….I am trying my best not to hate and keep respect and love alive, but is that what is making my recovery difficult?

          • Posted September 23, 2012 at 7:41 am | Permalink

            Hi Sandy,

            The only way to heal completely is to see things clearly. You are caught in the story of what happened, and this isn’t serving you. When you tell yourself about the other who hurt you and how you feel hate, these are thoughts rolling around in your mind.

            See if you can begin to bring your attention into your own direct experience, meaning: pull your attention away from the thoughts that make up the story, these are just sounds appearing in your mind, and feel in your body what is happening – burning, vibration, tension, whatever. Let these sensations be. Your mind will want to grab your attention again and again into the story, but your job is to let it go every time.

            True forgiveness happens when you make a decision within yourself to do whatever it takes to find peace. That means being willing to give up the story and look at your experience in a completely different way. Your healing really has nothing to do with the other person; it’s about how you are with your own experience.

            Also, create balance in your life. See if you can stop being obsessed with this situation, and appreciate the love and support around you. There is beauty everywhere, if you take a look.

            There are many resources here to help. Check out some of the guided audio meditations to help you stay centered.

            I appreciate your desire to be free of this torture. You won’t find it in the situation or the other person. Bring your full attention into yourself and work with those things you can do something about – your thoughts and feelings.

            Sending love and support…

      • avatar Sandy
        Posted October 3, 2012 at 8:46 am | Permalink

        Hi…quick update, unbelievable but true…I am almost 99% there. I think 1% is perhaps just matter of time. Your blogs an some meditation audio helped. I would also like to share couple of statements that I heard in one of the TV serials (Greys Anatomy) which had immediate profound impact on me, it goes something like that ” No matter how much you love someone there is no guarantee that they will love you back, and you cant force them to love you back”. This was one of those ahaaa moments with curtains lifting off ……Just wanted to share this with you, and thank you for you support….I am almost there….Take care

        • Posted October 3, 2012 at 8:50 pm | Permalink

          I’m so happy for your aha moments, Sandy. Obviously, you are giving your struggles some very useful attention – not to keep the stories going, but to find release.

          I appreciate the freedom you are discovering. Love and support to you on your journey…

          • avatar Benandrestar
            Posted February 24, 2013 at 2:19 am | Permalink

            Aha moments prevail!

  16. avatar Peris
    Posted January 25, 2013 at 10:47 pm | Permalink

    I am glad I found this post today, as I am completely in it right now. I am feeling unloved, alone, and afraid.
    I am not speaking to two of my sisters, their choices. My other sister tells me to go to Alonon.
    I am always searching for ways to try and BE happy but right now I am feeling far from that.
    I read your blog above and it completely resonates yet I do not know how to get there. I know there is some of; they wronged me, if I let go it means how they are is condonned. I always tried to be the “good” child yet “they” got the attention for all of their f’ups.
    I feel completely lost right now.

    • Posted January 26, 2013 at 9:34 am | Permalink

      You are most welcome here, Peris. So glad you found your way here.

      There is a quote by Eckhart Tolle that goes something like this: Whatever you think you need from the world, give to yourself. What do you think you need that would fill up the emptiness you feel? Love, attention, care? Can you offer these things to yourself with a loving, open heart? Here is how it works: you treat yourself kindly and you are both the giver and receiver. It fills you with exactly what you might be needing.

      In times of great difficulty, it helps to stop in every moment and follow your inner wisdom to know what to do for your peace and well-being. Only moment by moment, that’s all you need to pay attention to. I have written about this and other ways to deal with hard times from my own personal experience here in this post.

      You are the source of your own happiness and peace. Let go of trying to deal with interactions that clearly aren’t working. Be your own best friend, and feel free to stay in touch.

      In love and support….

      • avatar Peris
        Posted January 29, 2013 at 8:18 pm | Permalink

        Luckily the cloud has lifted. I am practicing changing my thoughts and it is not easy but I am doing the work.
        Your tools are very helpful. Esp the “what do you think you need today”
        I feel at times I am waiting to live; if I just do this, or make that much money, or ect. It is a strange concept, I am wondering where it comes from. Maybe self worth. I will read more on your site.
        Thank you, again!

        • Posted January 30, 2013 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

          This is great news, Peris. Once you notice what you are doing that is keeping you stuck, you are open to options. May I make a recommendation? It is to not spend too much time figuring out where these troublesome thoughts come from. Rather, spend the moments of this life in presence, peace, and happiness. In every moment, this choice is possible.

  17. Posted February 3, 2013 at 8:50 am | Permalink

    I enjoyed reading your post”10 Life Changing Facts To Heal The Pain Of The Past’. My personal issue is not so much with dealing with bad memories from the past, but yearning for the good times from my past. I don’t want to let go of the good times; I just want to learn from them and still live in the present. I am having trouble with this issue as I have read mixed solutions for this problem.

    • Posted February 4, 2013 at 1:07 pm | Permalink

      Hi Robert,
      I’m happy for you that you have had good times in the past. It sounds like now you are comparing the past to the present – and the present is coming up lacking or not good enough. Whether the past was good or not, it is gone. And your invitation always is to live in the freshness of now.

      Memories of the past are in the mind, and they are not about the present. Try not giving them your attention, and stay fully open to things as they are.

      • Posted February 11, 2013 at 8:23 pm | Permalink

        Thanks for your reply. I know that this will take time, but I really feel that I am moving forward and I am excited about the possibilities for the future.
        I wish all of those seeking answers on this site all the best.
        Thanks again!

        • Posted February 12, 2013 at 9:55 pm | Permalink

          So glad to hear that you are moving forward, Robert. Thanks for all of your good wishes.

  18. Posted February 19, 2013 at 10:26 am | Permalink

    I am desperate to find myself I don’t know who I am , don’t think I ever have . I abandoned my 2 kids 15 years ago to be with a man I am now married to and have 2 wonderful children . My previous relationship was abusive and violent. I cut myself off from all of my family just as my mother was dying . I’ve since had contact with my other 2 kids and one family member , but the guilt I feel is unbearable . I also had a fall out with my now husbands family whom I was very close to . I have a very good life now , but I can’t let go of the past I feel empty and alone . I don’t have any real close friends , my husband works long hours and is always preoccupied with something . I’ve been having some really bad thoughts and I’m scared . I just want to move on and learn how to find peace with myself and be happy .

    • Posted February 20, 2013 at 9:19 am | Permalink

      Hi Lisa,

      Don’t hesitate to get professional help in your local community to help you find your way to peace. You say you have a very good life now. So now, as you walk through the moments of your life, focus on what is here now, not how things once were. Being at peace is a choice you can make. Make it now…and now…and now. Over and over, bring your attention to what is here now, letting go of attaching to thoughts and feelings from the past. The past is over, and the only way it is kept alive is in your thoughts. What do you choose in this moment? Make an overture of friendship, do something that is caring for yourself. This is your path – let your whole life revolve around being present, and you will find what you are looking for.

  19. avatar dave
    Posted March 27, 2013 at 4:08 am | Permalink

    does this apply to thoughts that are keeping me “trapped” such as: “going to work is keeping me sick and I can’t heal unless I just quit work and live a stress free life?” this thought plays over and over in my mind and is very distressing to me because I am just barely making enough money to pay my bills and this thought keeps making me feel like i am in an impossible situation. Thanks

    • Posted March 27, 2013 at 9:15 am | Permalink

      Hi Dave,

      Thanks so much for your question – it is such an important one that I’m sure applies to many people.

      Any thought that keeps you trapped needs to be examined. I can definitely see how this thought, about work keeping you sick, makes you feel trapped. It also puts off your happiness and healing to some future time, making the now not a very pleasant place to be. Good for you for realizing that the problem is this thought – and not your job.

      What if, just for a moment, you couldn’t think this thought. Then there you would be, going to work, doing what you need to do. You wouldn’t be hoping for a stress-free life because you would be living one already. This is the power of thoughts – and of not paying attention to them.

      See if you can lose interest in this thought, you don’t have to get rid of it, and by doing so your attention falls right onto the present. Forget the running commentary in your head, and just be. Your resistance to work falls away.

      Maybe you do need to quit work to heal. But you can’t know this yet. First, take away the stress that the thoughts are adding in, then see where things are. You might find more energy than you could imagine and the lovely experience of being fully present and alive for the moments of your life. This is the true healing.

  20. avatar Boom
    Posted April 14, 2013 at 4:17 pm | Permalink

    Hi all!
    I had a terrible childhood. My father and my mother died really young. My father spent a lot of time in prison. And their relationship was really abusive. I really walked through the fire in my childhood. Now i’m 40 years old. And in these last month i’m experiencing really bad intrusive thoughts about my childhood. Still living those years of suffering and sorrow.there’s a lot boiling in my head. I just would like to ne free from those memories and not so scared. I spent all these years proving i’m not like them. And trying to focus only on positive memories. But it seems it doesn’t work. Thanks

    • Posted April 14, 2013 at 9:04 pm | Permalink

      Welcome to you, Boom. I’m sure you’re not alone in being troubled by recurring thoughts from the past.

      When it gets worse, like it is now, it’s time to take really good care of yourself. Be around supportive, loving people, see what you can do to reduce stress, spend time in nature, be very, very kind to yourself.

      As you know, there is no magic to finding relief from the memories. It’s an ongoing process of getting grounded within yourself – in your wholeness and creativity and clear thinking, which are always there even though they might be difficult to find. Be very present in the moment, breathing and feeling your feet on the floor. Celebrate anything life-affirming that you notice – a moment of joy, laughter, the peace of the natural world. All of these ways of being bring your attention away from the story of what happened in the past and here to presence.

      We live from either fear or love. See if you can live from love as much as you can, asking: What would love do?

      I appreciate your good intention to be open, peaceful, and free, and I know that this is possible for you. Sending oceans of love and support…

      • avatar boom
        Posted April 15, 2013 at 12:51 am | Permalink

        thanks for the prompt reply nd kind words.
        do you think is possible to get over these toughts?
        living in the past is a non sense because past doesn’t exist.
        don’t want to spend the present somewhere else with my mind.
        I only would like to find a way to cope with this.
        and not being ashamed .
        best regards

        • Posted April 15, 2013 at 12:30 pm | Permalink

          Hi Boom,

          It depends on what you mean by “get over” the thoughts. It’s really about making peace with them, so when the thoughts appear, which they will for a while, you stay grounded in the peace that is here in the present so that the content of the thoughts doesn’t disturb you.

          It is wisdom to see that the past doesn’t exist and your mind takes you away from the present. But it isn’t your mind that takes you away. It’s your attention, which is what you potentially have control over. When you feed challenging thoughts with your attention, they will hang around, as you know. But experiment: can the thoughts be present as wisps of energy that have words attached, but no meaning? Can they move through your awareness without your attention grabbing them and making them stick? This is the practice for you.

          There is a lot on this site about how to work with thoughts. Try this article, and others. There are also guided audio meditations which may support. Remember that the goal is to make peace with your experience as it is, as it appears. Not to change anything or make anything go away.

          Don’t let shame get in your way. It is not the truth of you, and what happened to you has nothing to do with the brilliance that you are and have always been. Shame also appears in you, just like the thoughts of the past. Stay grounded in yourself and committed to peace in the moments of your precious life.

          Love to you…

          • avatar Boom
            Posted April 15, 2013 at 1:00 pm | Permalink

            Thanks a lot again!
            I see that i’m spreading a lot of anger. I’m dealing With a lot of unexpressed energy. A lot of stress. And the past rose up pretty fast. I read a lot of books about buddhism and practice a lot. But would like to don’t have these set back. Thank a lot for your great words of wisdom!

          • Posted April 20, 2013 at 8:09 pm | Permalink

            Hi Boom,

            The setbacks are opportunities. If you don’t resist them, you might be surprised at what they offer you. I love your good spirit and intention, and I wish you well.

  21. avatar Gina
    Posted May 25, 2013 at 1:29 pm | Permalink

    Great advice! Suppose childhood emotional abuse has continued throughout one’s life into adulthood, and is still continuing even at this moment? Then, how does one let it go and move passed it – without going “no contact.”

    • Posted May 27, 2013 at 8:28 am | Permalink

      Hi Gina,

      Sometimes “no contact” is the best response. Find the wisest place inside you and ask what is needed. Listen bravely for the answer. Something in you knows the best course of action. Simply listen, and you will be shown the way.

      In love and support…

      • avatar Gina
        Posted May 27, 2013 at 8:24 pm | Permalink

        In a nutshell, mother with NPD, enabler father. Younger siblings were programmed and rewarded by both parents to mistreat the oldest sibling (target child). Family roles were terribly fouled up with a very chaotic family dynamic. An unhealthy codependency developed between siblings in loyalty to the NPD mother. Mother is very controlling, manipulative, etc.. Childhood was extremely disorganized, school wasn’t important, there wasn’t enough money and what there was – was used unwisely. Love was present, but not unconditionally, only if one played by the rules. I’m 59 years old and it’s all still going on today. Being I’m not a child anymore I will not allow it so there is constant conflict, drama, and tantrums to deal with which = STRESS. I also will not allow the misplaced blame to be placed on me anymore. There is also a Golden Child and Scapegoat issue; it’s quite complex. So, how does one keep their self-respect when they’re expected to allow others to treat them disrespectfully? The last decade it’s been as if I have PTSD in regards to this, it’s now affecting my sleep. I seriously fear getting an autoimmune disease from the stress this is causing in my life. I already have stress conditions. Going “no contact” doesn’t work, things become worse because there’s a strong gang mentality present. I crave and live the most peaceful life I can, I have a loving family of my own. I eat 90% organic, love to cook and bake. I love music and tending to my hummingbird and butterfly gardens and I do volunteer work. None of it seems to be enough to counter the extended family stress. I’ve read all the books. All suggestions are welcome – THANK YOU!!!

        • Posted May 27, 2013 at 10:45 pm | Permalink


          I am so happy for you that you find peace in loving your family, cooking, music, and simple things like your bummingbird and butterfly gardens. This is where life feeds you exactly what you need for your healing. If you continue to engage in this story around your family and all the drama it entails, you will continue to suffer. This is a guarantee. If you truly want to heal, have the courage to focus on your own happiness in every moment. And you may find that to be happy, peaceful, and content means not engaging with your family drama.

          You are not a victim. You have choice over whether you engage or not, whether you experience stress or not. Take full responsibility for your happiness by beginning to focus on what is true, whole, real, and supportive in every moment. This is the way out of the pain and drama, which are optional. Take control by making conscious choices in every moment that support your happiness.

          Being love, as love….

          • avatar Gina
            Posted May 28, 2013 at 1:41 pm | Permalink

            Thank you for your reply Gail. I agree that we ourselves are responsible for our own happiness. I have been trying hard not to allow my extended family to negatively impact my life. If I don’t accept their cruelty I am ostracized and rejected by them. My mother makes it a point to rub salt in the wounds she calculatedly creates. She only calls to tell me about the wonderful times she had at family functions we’re not invited to, etc.. My children are ignored for their birthdays and holidays. Then, I’m told about how thoughtful they all are towards each other’s birthdays and holidays. It’s all being done with clear premeditation. The root of all this is quite absurd and delusional. I was my grandmother’s favorite. My entire family bonds on the belief they were all rejected by her, except for me. Not true. My mother believes her mother (my grandmother) never loved her. I got the love she was denied. My father used me as a pawn with my grandmother to stay on my mother’s best side. My sisters were constantly told I was grandma’s pet. My brothers were told they were hated by their grandmother. All lies and quite senseless for parents to do, however it built great resentments and rivalry in siblings towards me.

            I have never considered myself a victim, but a survivor. I am SO fortunate that I had the love and support of a grandmother and aunt growing up; they provided me with the self-confidence and self-worth that I possess today. They were my saving grace. It’s why I would never accept the assigned role of scapegoat which is still trying to be pinned on me today. It’s been fierce battles my entire life not accepting that role. It actually made me Teflon strong and determined to be successful in my life. I am one of my parents’ children who turned out to be a productive part of society; their golden child is a disastrous disappointment and a huge part of the attack on me. The better I do the more I get attacked. The worse he does the more I am attacked. I have let them all know that the gig is up, and I have long changed by responses to their frequent attacks. Still they continue… I thought when I approached them on these things it would heal, but instead things got worse.

            It’s impossible not to engage in my extended family drama because it’s perpetually ongoing. I’ve known deep inside for a long time that the answer is to go “no contact” with my whole family. It’s not easy, especially when I’m the one who always wanted the big family. It’s just hard to imagine that my own family and I will be alone; there is just the 4 of us. I’m a firstborn; healer by nature. I love to help others and host huge family gatherings and holiday, etc… I guess it’s time to move on and focus 100% on my own family’s happiness. Thank you…

          • Posted May 29, 2013 at 1:59 pm | Permalink

            Life can be ruthless, Gina. You are being invited to investigate your most deeply held belief systems to see if they hold water. Wishing you the peace and clarity you long for…

          • avatar Gina
            Posted June 1, 2013 at 3:14 pm | Permalink

            Gail, you hit the nail right on the head. I have a completely different belief system then my extended family – I like to live a peaceful and genuine life – and it doesn’t hold water with them. Since reading your advice I am more determined than before to get my peace back. Thank you!

          • Posted June 3, 2013 at 9:08 am | Permalink

            Good for you, Gina. If you hold any belief system as true, eventually the reality of things will clash with it. The healing is pure openness. Seeing and accepting things as they are because resistance (in the form of belief systems about how things are supposed to be) will only bring suffering. Beautiful journey to you…

  22. avatar Heather Fleshood
    Posted May 25, 2013 at 10:58 pm | Permalink

    my biological mother is currently engaged to a man that molested me flash raped me when I was a little girl I’m having a hard time letting go is that any ideas. she told me the day before yesterday that she loved him more and she would rather have him in her life in Maine I won’t lie as her child that is extremely hard to handle

    • Posted May 27, 2013 at 10:36 pm | Permalink

      Welcome to you, Heather. You will never find peace in this story. My suggestion would be to bring your attention always to your happiness in the moment. You will find that when you live in this story and make it your reality, you will suffer. Consider shifting your attention away from this story and to the presence that is here and available always. You are aware. And when you live as this awareness, you find that stories are just thoughts and feelings are physical sensations. Welcome all of this in the loving space of awareness. Let everything be, meaning don’t push it away or draw it in, and be the ease in which all arises.

      Unsatisfying habits are driven by fear and lack. See if you can find in you what is whole, loving, and clear in you. Have the courage to live here.

      Offering you love and support on your journey…

  23. avatar Patrick
    Posted June 19, 2013 at 6:03 am | Permalink

    Wow. I’ve only been utilizing these guidelines for a few days and I’ve already noticed a difference in how I feel.
    My Wife commented to me the night before last, “I’ve never seen you look so relaxed.”
    Thank you for sharing this guidance, Dr. Brenner.


    • Posted June 21, 2013 at 12:26 pm | Permalink

      I’m so happy for you, Patrick! Once the insights start coming, real change is possible.

      In love and support…

  24. avatar Lisa
    Posted July 12, 2013 at 5:32 am | Permalink

    Thank you.

  25. avatar Melissa
    Posted August 8, 2013 at 4:40 pm | Permalink

    I have been trying to find the “secret” to let go of my pain. I lost my mom three years ago when she succumbed to lung cancer. My father moved on with a woman three months later I do not trust at all. We have had a horrible relationship ever since. He is a methadone addict and I am just starting to come to terms with that. Everyone tells me not to have any expectations because of his addiction, but I still feel like the little girl who wants her Daddy back, especially wants to develop a stronger relationship and fill the void of my mother.

    I just want to truly let go. Move on with my life. Not stay in the past, I can’t change what happened. I know all of these tools. I probably could write a book myself. I am actually the one that everyone comes to for advice and I am screaming inside.

    My husband is an optimist but he tired of hearing me whine about it because he wants me to move on as well.

    I believe I can do this. It is mine and mine alone.

    Thank you, Dr. Brenner. I’m glad I came across this site.

    • Posted August 9, 2013 at 3:54 pm | Permalink

      Welcome to you, Melissa.

      I also believe that you can move on, if you want to. For you, moving on means letting go of the fantasies you hold about “mother,” “father,” and “family.” When you take off the blinders, you see things as they actually are – with no filter. This may be painful, but it is true that the truth will set you free. If you continue to buy into the fantasy, you will be stuck. Know that seeing the truth is really the path to your happiness. Your fantasies will not be fulfilled, no matter how long you hold onto them. Be willing to be ruthlessly honest, which is a gift to yourself and everyone around you.

      Sending love…

      • avatar Melissa
        Posted August 12, 2013 at 3:07 pm | Permalink

        Thank you, Gail.

        The fantasy is where I get stuck. What it was and never will be again…

  26. avatar Emma
    Posted August 17, 2013 at 5:49 am | Permalink

    I have just googled – realizing your childhood has affected your life, and it brought me here. My mum has bipolar disorder, and has had major bouts of highs and lows since I was small, my dad was unloved as a child and has reminded me of this when I need him most, I havnt got the energy to write down all of the experinces I have felt, heard, seen and all of the support and care that I have craved and needed. It has broke up my relationships, been unable to bond with people and made me be unable to step out of the door. When I was nineteen I could have gone to university and made a good life for myself. Two years later I was in a phyciatric hospital, I was there because I coudnt stop drinking alcohol. I was then diagnosed with bipolar myself. I have never been “high” just suffered with depression. I had nobody to tell me any different so I have been taking medication since, that was 13 yaers ago, in that time I have had periods of stability but a lot of times things would crop up, it was only after helping my husband with depression that I realized I did not have bipolar, it was my childhood that had affected me sooooooooooo much. I am now talking to a counsellor and fully expressing my hurt, pain, loss, it is hard work. But for once in my life I am giving myself a break and I AM blaming other people. I have got so much anger for parents, you should not have children if you cannot look after them. I was a child. I needed looking after. I am told to forget about it and “don’t go there” “it is the past” I will move on, and I will not let it ruin my future, I just want to say, You cannot forget, let go,burry, anything. You have to fully,willingly, face a lot of anger and pain before you can move on, just saying a few hopeful positive words does not set you free, its hard work.

    • Posted August 18, 2013 at 9:29 am | Permalink

      Welcome to you, Emma.

      Thank you so much for sharing the naked truth of your experience. A few hopeful, positive words is not enough, although they can support sometimes. I appreciate and honor the hard work you are doing by facing everything, including all the hard emotions.

      I am so glad you are seeing a counsellor where you can unload and find a new perspective. It sounds like now you are beginning to see things more clearly as they actually are – who was responsible for what. I trust that this will help you find a sense of peace as you move forward.

      You have such a fire for your healing, which is so inspiring. Although you will never forget, you are on the road to feeling whole and in control as you live the moments of your beautiful life.

      Much love to you…

  27. avatar bubbleheart
    Posted October 5, 2013 at 8:15 am | Permalink

    For the first time in years I realized something. Don’t know how I missed it earlier. It’s not my past that has been hurting me more. It’s the memories that I keep replaying on my mind. I just can’t seem to forgive myself. The guilt kills me each moment even today and it’s been like 17 whole years. I sometimes wish I had Alzheimer’s. Wouldn’t have to remember a thing. Then again someone would definitely remind me.

    • Posted October 5, 2013 at 9:30 pm | Permalink

      This is an important insight, Bubbleheart. It isn’t what happened that is the problem now – it is the recurring thoughts in your mind. It’s a choice you’re making to stay a victim and keep punishing yourself.

      Only you can decide when it’s time to forgive yourself. And forgiving yourself means refusing to keep this cycle of thoughts alive and well. How important is your quality of life – now, in this moment? What are you willing to do for happiness?

      In love and support…

  28. avatar From an Australian
    Posted October 12, 2013 at 3:07 am | Permalink

    Hi Gail. I am 20 years old, 21 in a few months. I broke up with my first boyfriend back in 2009. We went out for 2 years. I am now with the most amazing, incredible man on this Earth, but how can this be when I am still so stuck in the past? Its been 4 years nearly to the day, I still cry over him. I still hurt immensely, my heart burns. How do I stop this pain? I am in so so so much pain. I always try and take your viewpoints, I sometimes have small moments of clarity where all of a sudden I’m ok. But its always there, and all of a sudden I’ll be in tears again. I am a firm believer that everything happens for a reason, I always have been. I wish I could see the purpose for our relationship, and why I hurt so badly. He has had quite a few girlfriends since me, he doesn’t feel the way I do. He once did, but only for a little while. What do I do? How do I stop this pain!!!!!! How?!?! Its been so long now, sometimes I’ll be perfectly fine. A few months later I’ll be in tears again. Why has he affected me so deeply? Our relationship ended mutually, but I still feel incredible guilt attached to our break up. We were still in school, I had to see him every day. Just after we broke up I got so distressed I even had to find him constantly in school. I wanted to fix the problem, which of course made it worse every time I tried. I am now almost finished my 3rd year of university. Why do I keep dwelling in the past about what could have been, should have been, and whether it could be again some day. My current boyfriend knows completely how I feel about this, but he tells me he’s not going anywhere, he hugs me and reassures me every single time. He is very involved in this process, he is there for me all the way. I of course feel like I don’t deserve him in the slightest, but he doesn’t see it that way at all.

    What do I do? How do I get rid of the past? Im so afraid of letting go and what that means for me. A part of my heart doesn’t want to let go for fear of ruining my future chances with him. I don’t want or need any future chances with him though! I already have the relationship that everyone spends their entire lives looking for! My relationship with my current boyfriend is absolutely incredible. He is the most amazing person on this Earth. Why would I want anyone that’s not him? The past me still wants my ex. I now can never tell if its a past me or the present me.

    Gail, I could write a thousand essays, all thousands and thousands of words long about this. I’ve barely skimmed it here. Please please reply.

    An Anonymous Australian

    • Posted October 13, 2013 at 7:51 am | Permalink

      Dear Australian,

      First of all, calm down. Take a breath.

      Your desperation says to me that you are looking for a magic answer to make this all better. Here it is: Choose peace in the moments of your precious life. There is nothing I can say that will help you until you begin to apply what you are learning here to your own direct experience.

      When you find yourself caught in the whirlwind of these thoughts about the past, stop. Say, “no more.” Breathe. Do anything that gets you out of your head – run in place, yoga, breathing. Then choose happiness and peace. You will need to stop buying into this story that runs and focus on what is happening now. Don’t be a victim – don’t let yourself dwell on the unhappy past.

      And be super honest with yourself. Is there something you can learn from the breakup? Where do you need to let go? Rather than getting caught in the drama, do the hard work. I know you have it in you. And there is a lot you can read in the archives here that may help.

      You have support for your healing everywhere. Love to you…

  29. avatar Lisa
    Posted October 18, 2013 at 2:20 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for this post – for so long now I have kept on re-thinking my past and how I could have done things differently and all the ifs and buts. I only make things worse and bring up painful memories which I cannot do anything about now. I know I need to focus on the present and future and this post really helps realise how to do this. I think it is time for a fresh start to my thinking. Thank you.

    • Posted October 18, 2013 at 9:36 pm | Permalink

      Welcome to you, Lisa.

      It’s a turning point when you realize that how things are aren’t working for you. Who does it serve to rethink the past, with the if’s and but’s? The past is done and what happened happened. And if you keep focusing on it, you miss the splendor that is here and available now. You are allowed to let yourself off the hook and realize happiness now. Let your life flourish….

  30. avatar Susan
    Posted November 30, 2013 at 6:27 pm | Permalink

    I just want to thank you for this post. I discovered it just this evening, on the eve of my birthday, which has been very painful for me for as long as I can remember. This post is just the ticket to finally releasing all of the old hurt that I have dredged up year after year. It is the greatest gift I could have received this year. Thank you again.

    • Posted December 1, 2013 at 12:42 pm | Permalink

      A warm and wonderful birthday to you, Susan! Yes! to releasing the old hurt, and Yes! to living in this gift of release.

      Much love to you…

  31. avatar Pat
    Posted December 9, 2013 at 2:30 pm | Permalink

    I have done many things in my teens and early 20s that I sincerely regret and am now heavily disgusted by. I have broken the law numerous times, I have imposed my will on others, and I have acted in selfish indulgence. I have made peace (as far as I know) with the individuals I have committed these unspeakable acts with, and I have long since developed as a human being. I now consider myself to be the polar opposite of the person that I used to be when I was acting in such brash manners. I now cherish humanity, voluntarism, and the thoughts/feelings of others solely before my own; I strive to act in selflessness. The past few years for various reasons have transformed my thought process on a vary deep and emotional level. The problem is that I am now stuck with the comparison of the hideous acts of the past with my current mindset, and it is too much to bare. The pain and grief has been so great that I have even contemplated taking my own life on many occasions – the thing that stops me is that I can’t change the past, and I still have a lot of life left to do good in the world and unto others. I just can’t seem to leave the disgusting acts of my past behind me. It’s so hard to hang on.

    • Posted December 9, 2013 at 3:43 pm | Permalink

      Thanks so much for your comment, Pat.

      It sounds like what you have done in the past has not been left in the past. It is recycling around in your mind now causing all kinds of trouble.

      As you relate, you have made so many positive, beautiful changes, and I salute you for that, especially making peace with the individuals who were mistreated by you. Now you get to decide when you want to make peace with yourself. I hear your reasons for not taking your life – that you still have a lot of good to do – so it seems like your life is moving forward positively.

      Do you feel you need to keep punishing yourself? Are you afraid you will forget what happened if you don’t keep thinking about it? Do you think you don’t deserve to be happy and peaceful? Something is hooking you into these memories, and when you discover what it is, you can make the choice to let go.

      Comparison of any kind is never fulfilling because it is about separation. What is being asked of you is for your heart to open fully to yourself – all of yourself. As you have compassion for the “victims,” may you also have compassion for yourself, since some kind of pain motivated you to commit these acts. You are not that one anymore. Let him go in your mind and live as the one who is caring and selfless, for you and for everyone else.

      • avatar Pat
        Posted December 9, 2013 at 4:21 pm | Permalink


        I sincerely appreciate the response; it definitely helps. I think my number one issue with this is that I realize the person I am now – the person I want to live as and embrace, and I look at my past and say “How do you deserve this great life, this happiness for yourself when you have wronged others the way you have?”. As you may have guessed, the things I have done went unreported – nothing became of them. I often wonder how everyone else would feel about me if they knew the scope of some of my past actions, and that really bothers me. I feel almost depersonalized to who I am now because I have a hard time accepting who I am now bearing the past. It’s almost as if I feel I deserve grave punishment. Everyone involved is moving on with their lives except for me.

        I am not afraid that I will forget what I have done since I know that who I am today is a result of that. These things happened years ago, and I am most likely the only one on the planet thinking about them.

        All the best,

        • Posted December 11, 2013 at 9:13 pm | Permalink

          Sometimes we go through the fire, Pat, and it sounds like you have used well the situations that occurred in the past for your transformation.

          All best wishes to you…

  32. avatar robert reeves
    Posted February 23, 2014 at 10:29 pm | Permalink

    Wow this was truly eye opening ,you saved my life tonight
    I was asking God for answers and I found them in your article truly in inspiring. Thank you

    • Posted February 28, 2014 at 5:13 am | Permalink

      I’m so glad you found what you needed, Robert. Love to you…

  33. avatar gracie green
    Posted April 11, 2014 at 7:37 pm | Permalink

    Thank you Gail,
    This article has moved me along with the one about the Phoenix. I have realized that I’m creating my own sadness by replaying the stories over and over in my head. It will be a challenge, but I’m willing to do the work. I deserve to be free, to be happy. My children deserve a happy mom. Still tired of crying!

    • Posted April 12, 2014 at 4:06 am | Permalink

      You have infinite support for finding your way through this suffering, Gracie. Yes, only you can create sadness, which is great news. You also have the power to not let it be what consumes you. You are already free, and you deserve to know that consciously in your own experience – and for your children.

      Happiness is right here, always available to be discovered. If you think there’s a well of pain inside you, let it be filled up in happiness, love, and support. In any moment, a shift of attention is all it takes.

      Love to you…

  34. avatar drew
    Posted April 18, 2014 at 6:44 am | Permalink


    I became obsessed with genealogy and dead relatives. Thinking about it all of my free time. Found myseld dwelling on family members long dead before I was born or who died when I was a child. Finally, gave it all up. I feel so stupid for not concentrating on the living and those close to me.

    • Posted April 19, 2014 at 9:09 am | Permalink

      Hi Drew,

      Spending your precious time and energy feeling stupid is the same as focusing so much on your relatives who are gone. They both distract you from what’s here and available now.

      You gave it all up to be here in this moment! Right now you can meet your loved ones with fresh eyes. You can welcome yourself into the land of the living and rejoice here. Let all of the past be, and maybe you can simply enjoy yourself.

      With love to you…

  35. avatar ash
    Posted April 18, 2014 at 11:07 pm | Permalink

    I’m so thankful to you for this.
    I”m taking a print-out and keeping it on my dresser so that I may re-read this and emerge out of my emotional turmoil.
    Thank you dear for writing this ♥

    • Posted April 19, 2014 at 9:11 am | Permalink

      Thanks for sharing your comment, Ash. May you emerge out of your emotional turmoil light, fresh, and available to the now.

  36. avatar Lali
    Posted April 30, 2014 at 2:02 pm | Permalink

    Your blog really touched my nerve – I am really suffering from painful memories of the past because I still cannot escape the circumstances fully. So there are constant reminders of the past. However your blog gives me hope I can still take control and not let my thoughts of the past hurt me now and to take pleasure from other positive things I have. Thank you – and I look forward to reading the rest of your blogs.

    • Posted May 1, 2014 at 2:46 pm | Permalink

      Yes, that’s it, Lali. You can take control and not let the thoughts about the past hurt you. They are just word forms that appear, so you can let them float past you without landing. Meanwhile, you recognize what is positive and working in your life. The beauty is here – all around you.

  37. avatar A Rost
    Posted May 8, 2014 at 9:29 pm | Permalink

    I know this is a few years old but THANK YOU!!! I was overwhelmed by how accurate and relatable these topic points are; especially the quotes in #7. I have a major problem getting over very petty moments in my life which realistically have 0 impact on my life today. This helped tremendously. Thanks again!!!

    • Posted May 9, 2014 at 3:02 pm | Permalink

      Hi AR,

      You’re never too late, so thanks so much for taking the time to comment.

      The quotes in #7 are about the excuses we tell ourselves that prevent us from taking responsibility for our own healing, such as: “I feel justified in staying stuck because I was wronged.”

      As I’m sure you know in your own experience, buying into these beliefs does nothing but keep us stuck and unhappy. Healing from the past is all about being empowered, taking the bull by the horns, and getting serious about your happiness. It doesn’t matter what it means for others or the effect on them. That’s not your business.

      But your happiness? Bring your attention there and things will shift.

      I’m so glad you found this article helpful.

  38. avatar Saesha Khan
    Posted May 28, 2014 at 3:07 am | Permalink

    Thank you so much for this post :) Just when I’m going through a difficult phase yet have lots of support, its still difficult for me to let go of the painful memories that keep reminding me of my bad judgement or the fear of my mistakes coming to haunt me is so great or questions to which I don’t have closure..I needed to read about the disengaging process above and be fully present in the moment…to just be able to feel myself and aware again…keep up the good work!

    • Posted May 28, 2014 at 9:20 pm | Permalink

      It’s absolutely possible to disengage from the pain, Saesha. Yes, feel yourself as you are in your natural, innocent state – aware and alive!

  39. avatar S
    Posted June 6, 2014 at 8:39 am | Permalink

    I’m from Sweden actually, and i googled how to let of the past, and then i found you!

    I really enjoyed reading everything.
    But I have a question for you..

    Me and my ex boyfriend were together for about 2 years. Everything went perfect, we communicuted well, had strong feelings, and on the top he was my best friend.

    About 2 years in the relationship, things started to get a on a bad note. He’s father died. We are both 21 so he died pretty young, and i can just imagine how hard it most be. After he’s father died my ex didnt want to talk about his feelings. he just becamed really trapped. So he struggeld with his depression over his fathers dead, and i had my depression as well. He had to break up because he said he just couldnt handel to be in a relationship, because he cant be there for both of us. he just need to focus on himself.

    So… We are not together now, but we both want to start again later. After the break up, he keeped repeating: Its very important that you dont hold on to those bad things that happend between us lately, dont hold on to the old things. And I dont want you to have any hope with getting back together with me because hope means not letting go of the past.

    He is so stuck on this thought of letting go. He means that this is the key to start all over again. If i cant let go of the past, we cant be in a relationship again.

    You might understand this better than me, It would be very hopeful with some help from you :) (PS: Sorry my bad english, hope you understand!)

    • Posted June 9, 2014 at 8:12 am | Permalink

      Welcome to you, S. My suggestion to you would be to walk your own path and discover peace and happiness within yourself. You do that by letting go of everything – things that happened in the past so you don’t carry them around, anxieties, even the need for a relationship. Then you are here, present, and available for what life offers you.

      If you hold onto what happened in the past, it is still alive now in your thoughts, feelings, and behavior. Letting go of it all means you are fresh in this precious moment. Then you go forth and enjoy yourself…

  40. avatar Anthony
    Posted June 9, 2014 at 5:50 am | Permalink


    I had a Girfriend of 5 months. We broke up in March,2014. She was looking to get married and was seeing someone financially very strong. I am average in terms on money. She dumped me and started seeing a guy. I contacted her last in March, since then we have not spoken. I still feel the pain as I am single and she seems to be very happy and unaffected- as she did not try to contact me even once. We are in same office, i see her everyday, but we both ignore each other. I feel very frustrated and sad. Please suggest.


    • Posted June 9, 2014 at 8:21 am | Permalink

      Hi Anthony,

      If you look clearly at the facts of your situation, what to do becomes obvious. She is dating someone else, she seems to be happy, she hasn’t tried to contact you, and she doesn’t speak to you when she sees you. Have an honest talk with yourself and realize that she’s not the one for you. I’m sure you want to be with someone who really wants to be with you. Go out and find her, and in the meantime, do your own inner work to make yourself into the best partner possible who the right woman will want to be with.

      Things don’t always go the way we want them to, but now you have the opportunity to find the right match for you.

  41. avatar Edna Gaytan
    Posted June 21, 2014 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

    Thank you, for this post has made a shift on my perspective for good. I always hold on to my past, used the pain and unwanted ugly feelings to have a better life, be a stronger person but I have realized holding on has done me more damage than good. I have to accept my past, make peace with it, learn from the it and keep moving foward and live in theppresent.

    • Posted June 21, 2014 at 8:42 pm | Permalink

      This is so great, Edna! It’s transformative to realize that holding on doesn’t work. It’s up to you to make peace with your thoughts and feelings about what happened in the past. Then your energy is free and you’re available to experience life as it unfolds.

  42. avatar Sheila
    Posted June 25, 2014 at 1:58 pm | Permalink

    This is great for those who have been wronged, but my problem is all the people I have hurt over the years. My skeletons and ghosts. :-( Just when I was doing good and on a good path, I blew it all over and hurt people I love terribly. Any suggestions? I feel like a disgrace and failure. Kept trying to live it down and thought I had beat the wrap (nothing that put me in prison, but embarrassing and shameful). I have felt like changing my name & looks so that I could hide, but I can’t. There is nowhere to hide from my past. :-( Thank you.

    • Posted June 26, 2014 at 1:43 pm | Permalink

      Hi Sheila,

      I hear you, Sheila, and appreciate your honesty. Hiding from your past will never work because it will somehow keep nipping at your heels.

      A few points: It doesn’t make you a bad person to let go of what happened and move on and be happy. Fully admit what you did, even if you weren’t conscious about your choices at the time. Make apologies to people if possible and express your regrets about how you acted. If the people aren’t available, write a letter that you don’t send or even imagine the people who were hurt sitting in a chair next to you and speak your apology from your heart. Take your time with this.

      Then see if you can have compassion for who you were at that time. You did the best you could do then. If you could have done better, you would have. Realize that you were confused – you were, otherwise you wouldn’t have done what you did. Be kind in your heart to that confused one.

      See what you can learn from your behavior, so what happened then serves you and others moving forward. How can you handle things differently now? What have you learned from that experience that helps you to be kinder and more compassionate now? How has that experience changed you? Live those changes in your day to day life now. Let what happened then affect you now in a positive way.

      Then it’s time to move on. See who you are – not just the one who hurt other people, but realize all that you are now. When you focus just on what happened in the past, you aren’t seeing things accurately.

      Open your heart to yourself and let yourself heal. It serves no one to hold onto the identity of being a disgrace and failure. Let your heart open endlessly to everyone, and rise up to be more aligned with your truth as a result of what happened.

      There is a beautiful possibility of letting go waiting for you. When you let go of letting these stories define you, you realize that you can be free. You deserve to be happy just like everyone else. It’s OK to stop punishing yourself so you can live.

      Sending love and support to you…feel free to let me know how it goes…

  43. avatar S
    Posted June 27, 2014 at 7:18 am | Permalink

    Thank you, Gail. There is so much more…. I was finally in a good place in my life when my spouse was diagnosed with stage IV cancer (he has had several cancers we have lived through, thank God, but this one felt like the end). I went into denial. I couldn’t cry but needed desperately to. I wanted our life to get better & cancer came back. I blocked it out of my mind and regressed/tried to hide (denial and anger). I was getting old and life was happening around me. He is miserable and disappointed in me (I can’t blame him). I labeled him dead when they told us the prognosis, even though he was ready to do what needed to be done & did survive. I was awful and hurt people trying to hide from the pain/reality. I think of ending my life at times & so has he. Life isn’t worth living anymore. I’m so ashamed of myself. I am middle aged, not a child. So ashamed of myself/life, just when I was coming clean and being brave and real. Took off the mask only to put on a stupid/painful one that does not fit. You roll with things and I didn’t. I wanted to get through/around/it and hurt so many. I’m so sorry. I was not normal/myself and it makes me sad because that was not how I am or how I feel. I love him and was desperately sad & it felt like the end of the world. I went into denial. :-(

    • Posted June 27, 2014 at 11:27 am | Permalink

      It sounds to me like you were scared – of pain, of losing him, of your own mortality – resisting what was happening, and as a result treated him and others in ways you feel ashamed about. I really hear the pain you are in about this. But for you to begin to find your way out, you start taking responsibility for it. And this includes what I said in my other response: apologize, make amends, explain why you did what you did and why you will be different now, then act that way to gain others’ trust. You can turn it all around – in your inner and outer worlds – as soon as you decide to.

      Then have compassion for you – the one who was scared and the one now who is ashamed.

      You can live in this story forever, or you can begin your healing. It’s amazing that we have this choice!

  44. avatar S
    Posted June 27, 2014 at 12:26 pm | Permalink

    Thank you, Gail. That’s exactly what it was. It’s a hard thing to try to explain to his family. I hope that some people understand.

    • Posted June 27, 2014 at 6:13 pm | Permalink

      Say what’s true for you, then let your actions speak, S. Love to you…

  45. avatar Universe Guardian
    Posted July 3, 2014 at 6:36 am | Permalink

    I think I need help….I’ve had a sceniro for years now. Very complicated but true. Ur paper is very good…you talk about awareness of feelings in which I’m completely….what do you do if the other party involved disassociates themselves into denial, mixed messages received, on and off moments. I’m tired of the wheels of this emotion. How do you pin down the person to spend time to speak to them?

    • Posted July 3, 2014 at 4:40 pm | Permalink

      I appreciate your question, UG. And here’s the truth: what I’ve discovered is that you can’t make anyone do anything. So you can’t pin them down, and you can’t make them listen to what you have to say.

      So what to do instead? Focus on things you can control, which is how you relate to your own emotions. You get triggered by this other person’s denial and mixed messages. The goal is not to change them (impossible), but to come to peace within yourself and welcome your own feelings. Let this other person go, and know that you can discover happiness within yourself. Once you’re not attached, anything can happen. But trying to control the uncontrollable is a set up for your suffering.

      I understand you’re wanting to express yourself, but my experience is that these conversations never go the way we want them to anyway. So maybe this conversation isn’t as necessary as you think it is. Heal yourself from within, and all will be well.

  46. avatar Abhinav Garg
    Posted July 8, 2014 at 8:02 am | Permalink

    hello Gail,
    I really liked your post and i will try to implement everything you’ve written in my life… I’ve been so messed up from past one year because i feel so guilty for the things i ve done in past… I am just not able to let go of them.. They keep haunting me… Troubling me and I keep telling myself “how could i ve done that?.. wtf was i thinking?”.. i didn’t realize it then.. I love a girl.. We were in a relationship for 3 years and she broke up….why? because i hurt her.. i got so possessive over her that i hit her thrice.. i didn’t treat her good.. i know i should have.. and i keep regretting it now.. It has been a year since the break up but she is not ready to talk still.. She says she is happy without me.. Though she puts the blame on me that she wont be able to love anyone else now..it was then that i decided that i will punish myself for what I’ve done.. i tried to kill myself for which i was hospitalised for 4 months.. And now after coming out of the hospital i’m clueless.. What should i do??.. i still feel so guilty.. i am not able to face her now.. we are in the same college and i ve stopped going to college now just because i cant face her.. she has done extremely well with her life after the break up.. and i ended up being nothing else but a looser.. i cant look at myself in the mirror.. I’m not proud of myself.. Please suggest me something

    PS- I’m 20 years of age. :|

    • Posted July 10, 2014 at 6:20 am | Permalink

      Thanks so much for your comment and question, Abhinav. I hear the pain you express, and I also see that you are in a wonderful place for a fresh start. You say you’re not proud of yourself. Now is the time to contemplate within yourself how to be with yourself and others so that you are proud of yourself.

      Deeply learn from these experiences you describe. Understand why you did what you did so that you can heal and it doesn’t happen again. Know the tendency in you to feel possessive and find healthy ways to deal with it. There is the possibility for tremendous growth for you. What kind of man do you want to be? How do you want to treat women – and men? How do you want to feel when you look in the mirror? Orient your life toward making the answers to these questions your living reality.

      I’m glad that the girl you were with is happy, and it is up to her now to do the work she needs to do so that she can love again. But you need to let her go. She is moving on with her life, and I would suggest that you not interfere with that. You might find it helpful to apologize – NOT to her personally or in a letter – but only within yourself. Take out a photo of her and say what is in your heart about your feelings about how you treated her. Or write a letter that you never send. But have the experience within yourself of taking responsibility and saying the words of regret and apology. And if you see her, respect her need to not interact with you. Simply walk away and then tell yourself inside that you will be OK.

      After that, move on. It doesn’t help anyone to keep punishing yourself. Decide what is important to you and follow through. Be trustworthy as a man, a friend, a son and brother. Treat everyone from an open heart so they know that you are kind. Decide what you would like to do regarding your education, and make it happen. Your actions are what matters.

      Everyone messes up. These experiences serve when we learn from them. So what can you learn? Let your life be a living testimony of wisdom, heart, and integrity.

  47. avatar Shabaz Athar
    Posted July 11, 2014 at 7:10 am | Permalink

    Living in the past will give you more pain….. I heard this from Japanese Friend of mine. Thank you very much for your post. I mean it lot

  48. Posted July 15, 2014 at 3:44 pm | Permalink

    LOVE this post! There’s so many things that you pointed out here that I know but very much so needed the reminder! Thank you SO much for sharing! I’m sure I’ll check back to this post again just to get that added reminder as needed. :-)

  49. avatar Sam
    Posted July 15, 2014 at 6:36 pm | Permalink

    I’ve had a very hard time letting go of the past and what could have been so much so it interferes with my present life. I didn’t have the best college experience or best friends and this was for several reasons one being I was not assertive or confident. I was quiet and shy. I suppose regrets come from feeling dissatisfied from your life and with Facebook and seeing more confident peers go on to achieve their goals and lead happy lives it’s hard not to think I could have been like that had I made decisions from a place of confidence. I am happier in my life today but I often find that when I think of my college years I feel deep regret. I try not to think about it but my good times instead but it’s hard to totally let go. Also college is one of those experiences where new friends may bring it up. Another point of contention for me is that my personal issues resulted in me not achieving my academic potential and thereby not getting into the college of my choice and going to an average one. I can’t change the facts unfortunately. Glad I found your site. I find mindfulness meditation really helps me stay in the present.

    • Posted July 16, 2014 at 9:08 am | Permalink

      Welcome to you, Sam! I appreciate your comment, and I’m sure others can relate.

      You have the insight that staying in the present is what helps, and I’m so glad you are happier now! It sounds like your thoughts are about comparing – comparing you with your peers, comparing how you are now with how things could have been. And these comparing thoughts feed the regret you feel.

      Healing comes from the deepest acceptance of what is. Without comparing, can you allow things to be as they are? And can you move forward from there? Let the past be in the past. Then here you are – living fully now.

2 Trackbacks

  • By הזעת יתר בוטוקס מחיר on August 26, 2012 at 9:59 am

    הזעת יתר בוטוקס מחיר…

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  • By בוטוקס למניעת הזעה on August 28, 2012 at 9:44 am

    בוטוקס למניעת הזעה…

    … בוטוקס מחירים – מילוי קמטים ומתיחת עור הפניםהיא תופעה ביולוגית ולא ניתן להלחם בה בוטוקס למניעת הזעה. אלטרנטיבה לגישה הניתוחית ואף משתמשים בשיטה זו לזירוז ההחלמה העור. כך למעשה, פעולתו של השריר … 10 Life-Changing Facts to Heal the Pain of the Past…

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