How To Let Go Of The Past And Live Fully In The Present

Don't ever let your rough past ruin your present or future. Let go of it. There is nothing you can change about it. It already happened.

By Tania Oberoi
How To Let Go Of The Past And Live Fully In The Present

What does it mean to "let go"

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Try this exercise. Keep both your fists clenched tight. Now try to grab something sitting in front of you (keeping your fists clenched). Now try to grab something someone is handing to you (still with your fists clenched). Now try to grab something to hand to someone else (don't open your fists). Were you able to do any of those things? Was all that frustrating? Did you try using your mouth or your toes to make it work somehow? As soon as you open your fists, the task becomes effortless. Using the same example, your mind works the same way. You can hold on to something as much as you like, but you are eliminating space for other things to make their way in. Your past will include both good and bad. The "good" is healthy to think about, but you are setting a par level for the good things in your present and future. You are comparing the good things happening now and the ones that will happen in the future to what has already happened. You deserve more than that. You deserve to be happier than you once were. There should never be a cap on your happiness. The "bad", on the other hand, will only bring you to a negative place. You can keep thinking about it and it will impact your attitude, your relationships, your mindset, and everything around you. Open up your fists. Open up your mind. Allow new things into your life. Your past should stay where it belongs, in the past.

“It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live.” -Albus Dumbledore

Apply this quote towards "your past". You can keep dwelling on the past over and over and completely forget to notice the good things that are currently taking place in your life. I got this etched into the back of my iPod and it's a constant reminder of what I came from, what I used to be, what I left behind, and what I should never go back to. I interpreted the quote a little differently due to the fact that I have always had difficulty with "letting go".

Moving past the damage

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Letting go of the past is one of the hardest things you can do. After all, that is what molded you into the person you are today. So why does everyone keep saying "let go of the past", "move on", and "forgive and forget"? Well, because logically, you can't change a thing about it. You can relive it through memories and thoughts, you can cry and complain, but your outcome will always remain the same as it is now. You've already lived through it once, not letting go is only going to make you relive the same feelings like anger, sadness, confusion, helplessness, etc. over and over again. Have you ever tried to mend a broken glass? Or scoop up spilled milk? I'm sure it can be done with various techniques, but who has the time and patience for that? You will never find all the missing pieces of that glass. You will never be able to scoop up every last drop of milk. The damage is already done. Do you beat yourself up about it? Or do you shrug your shoulders, look at the damage, remind yourself to be more mindful the next time around, and go out and buy another glass or some more milk? I am assuming you do the latter. You have trained your mind to replace damaged material things, consider your past the same way for a minute. You cannot rectify your broken and damaged past, you can only mask it by improving yourself, starting fresh, and avoiding the same mistakes. Apply these and receive a different outcome every single time, no matter what the situation.

But, we were in love

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Letting go of someone you once held so dearly to your heart is challenging. What were once happy times, are now just memories that you repeatedly play in your mind. Do you really miss that person? Or do you miss the cheerful times you shared? The loving moments you created with one another? The promises you made of a pleasant future together? You may fear that you will never be able to experience that with another person. You were in love, love is pure, simple, transparent. Love should only happen once. There's only room for one person in your heart. Always and forever should mean something. Unfortunately, anyone who says, "love hurts" or "love is hard" is misleading you. No relationship should be such a struggle where you are getting hurt or working hard constantly to keep each other around. When you wake up in the morning, your daily energy should not be stuck on whether things would work out between you two or not. If you do not have the confidence that your relationship is strong enough, where no one is hurting the other, where things are made simple just by communicating, is all of it even worth it? We often confuse love with being attached and dependent on someone. Evidently, they are very different from one another. Being dependent in a relationship is quite common, we all do it. Once that dependency becomes a burden on one or both parties involved, that's when the problem occurs. You or your partner were not dating one another for the comfort of having someone around when convenient. You started to share a path when you started to share common feelings for one another. You were both still individuals, feeling the same things for each other. The butterflies. The late night talks. The cute text messages. The loving relationship you were slowly creating. Once you both chose to take those feelings for granted and started taking advantage of having each other around, that's when a form of "emotional abuse" initiated. Once the love starts to fade, the bitterness remains prominent and relationships fall apart. All you can hold on to at that point are the memories of that person and your times together. These memories might last you a lifetime, but is that what you want to live with? Or do you want to let go and have a fresh start with someone new?

Reason to hold on or to let go

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This is something we have heard many times before. All the "positive people" are talking about it. Do you believe it? Do you think everything happens for a reason? Did your ex break your heart for a reason? Yes, you experienced heartbreak and it was painful and you fear what will happen next; can you think of a reason why? If not, let's change your perspective on that. He probably broke your heart because he was a narcissist. He was convinced that he could slap you across the face and you would turn the other cheek because you loved him. And you probably did do that for a long time. You let him push you around without even realizing it. Now he had you paying for things, took advantage of your emotions, lied to you about things, deceived you by cheating, and overall kept you in the dark about your entire relationship. Your young and naive self may not have noticed all this when it was happening, but as you start to grow and gain fresh and diverse experiences, you perceive things differently. At this point, you would have started to see everything he was putting you through and how he had manipulated the entire relationship. One of you is bound to give up on the relationship. Either you would have had enough of his narcissistic ways, or he would have noticed the disagreements and felt the defiance from you. Now let's analyze this possibility. Your mind was molded by a different generation. You were taught to remain faithful. You were taught to never give up on people or relationships. You were taught to work harder when your relationship started to fall apart. You were expected to somehow make things work. You experienced that relationship from the previous generation’s point of view. The way things were “meant to be”. You tried many times. You kept giving the other person one chance after another. You tried it their way. Now you know what works for you and what doesn’t. There’s your reason. ~The reason why you had to go through heartbreak from someone you loved is so you could have a new set of guidelines on who is worthy enough to have your heart in the future and for a lifetime.

Exes leave scars.

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You will often find yourself alone, escaping reality. We all have different ways to cope. We either choose to run from our past or evaluate it over and over and over again. We replay the same arguments, the same scenarios, the same abuse in our heads to try and figure out what went wrong or what could've been done differently. We let all those things take control of our present and forget that we are still alive and well. It's like scratching at the same wound repeatedly, it will break open, it will bleed, and it will leave a scar. Yes, heartbreak is a terrible thing. In all honestly, the only way to overcome it is by letting it run it's course. You will cry. You will see constant reminders of what you had. You will cry some more. You will probably intoxicate yourself. You will try to forget what used to be. You will contemplate on whether to call them or not. You will either decide to cut them out of your life completely or continue to hang on by a thread just to give yourself that hope. But one day, you will wake up and that person will no longer be the first thought of your morning. At that moment, you'll know that the pain is over, it's in the past, and you successfully let go and move on. That person will cross your mind from time to time, not because you are still in love, but to remind you that your past is what brought you to your beautiful present. The scars from that relationship will remain but they will be too small to notice.

Accept your past mistakes.

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Easier said than done. Learning from your mistakes sounds less complicated when it's educational. On the other hand, self-reflection is where we lack, after all, "what did I do wrong, how is that my fault". If you take a test and fail, you study harder to pass the next time around. If you get a poor grade in a class, you try to improve and do better or retake the class. Your life represents a similar test. No one is walking around labeling you with A through F grades but what if they were? What if your community (family, friends, co-workers, acquaintances) categorized everyone based on past relationships? Where would you range on that A through F grade level? And how would you be able to do better? Not everyone's past consists of partners who were adulterous, causing the relationship to be dull, communicating in an unhealthy manner, or lacking a sexual appetite. Not all of you were on the receiving end of this. Some of you were responsible for causing the damage to the relationship. A once happy relationship changing into a nightmare because of some of the things you did, knowingly or unknowingly. Stop what you're doing and reflect back on your life. Were you the one causing your partner pain and distress? Were you the one being disloyal? Were you the bitter one lacking compassion? Where did you go wrong? Did you ever consider your flaws that caused the relationship to come crumbling down? Admitting to your mistakes and taking responsibility is extremely difficult when we have the convenience of blaming another person. Sit down, think hard, write it out. Would you want to be treated the way you treated someone else in your life? If your answer is no, then think about ways to become a better person. We often become so absorbed with the fear of getting hurt or losing someone, we forget to be thankful for the things we are already privileged enough to have. We take things for granted. We take advantage of the unconditional love we are receiving. We forget about how we make others feel by our harsh words or our unforgivable gestures towards them.

Don't let your past hinder your growth.

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Growth is an interesting phenomenon. Some conceptualize it with age, others with experience. Seemingly, it can be a mixture of both. We grow from every experience in our lives whether they are good or bad, happy or sad, easy or challenging. Initially, self-growth is more important than growing with someone else. Do it for yourself, not for someone else. Your past relationships and fears will always stand in the way of your self-growth, it is up to you to shut them out and progress within yourself. As mentioned before, write things down. We often lay awake at night thinking about what our life would be like if certain relationships worked out, if we flourished in certain careers, or if we did things differently in our day to day lives. We consider different possibilities and decide to implement changes in our life "starting tomorrow". As we drift off into an anxious sleep about starting our new lives the next day, the majority of those thoughts abandon us. Come the next morning, we start the same cycle of negative thoughts, the "what if" chronicles, and the "I wish" sobs. Writing things down solidifies your thoughts and wishes. Start with simple things. We repeatedly make statements about hating our lives especially when things are falling apart drastically. Buy yourself a journal, at the end of each day, write down one good thing (or more) that happened to you that day. It could be anything, whatever made you smile that day, even if it's a meme that brought you giggles. Every Sunday night or Monday morning, read the happy highlights of your week. You will begin your Mondays with a collection of happy moments rather than the negative pieces of your past. Repeat the cycle each week. As humans, we often only remember the bad things that have happened to us and reminding ourselves of the happy moments is important (no matter how briefly the smile lasted). Next, write down the things that inspired you during the day, it could be a quote on Instagram, a homeless person holding up a sign, or a text from a friend. You can choose to write down how they made you feel or just a short reminder that it was an inspirational moment that made you want to make changes in your life. Finally, write down the bad thoughts you have each night, the ones we talked about above. Writing those down will help you keep track of them. Form a checklist. Your "what if" and "I wish" would easily turn into an "I did" because that will be a constant nagging reminder of your wants and needs and you will be on a fearless journey to fulfill them.

Forgive the past. forget the past. let go of the past.

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Forgiveness, alongside with letting go of the past, is a challenge for most of us. Forgiving someone for what they did to us is a long and tedious process. There are several things that go through our minds when we think of an unpleasant situation and how it made us feel. The anger and animosity follow right behind it. "How could you do this to me?" "I was so good to you and this is what I got in return." "I will never again be the same person or give it my all because I learned my lesson." These are all signs that you haven't forgiven someone, you will not forget what they did, or let go of your past. You feel like you've been wronged by someone and for that, they deserve retribution of some sort. As clichéd as this may sound, it will come to them. It is not your responsibility to make that happened. It is not your responsibility to make them realize and amend their mistakes. Just the way, you lay awake at night, self-reflecting and thinking about your past mistakes and are traumatized by them, they have their own form of rumination. We often only think about our loss and our pain, and let those thoughts empower our entire being. The time we spend on avenging a situation or thinking about what they deserve for the way we were treated consumes our minds. We tend to talk about it over and over, and in that confusing state of mind, we lose ourselves. Do you really need the constant reminder of what happened? It was painful and disheartening enough when it initially happened. Wanting to hand deliver a punishment you think they deserve is like keeping yourself captive in their world. Free yourself from that world. You are no longer a part of it. Embrace it. You can be a part of a better world that you create for yourself. Break past your limitations. Feel sorry for them, the type of human they are, the hollow life they live, forgive them and move on. Forgiveness is powerful. Forgiveness is freedom. Forgiveness is compassion.

Declutter your life.

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That box of "memories" that you both created with so much love, BURN IT! Sounds silly but is probably the best advice you will ever receive. Let go. You don't need to hold onto that box. It will only make things harder. Anything that you are holding on to from a past relationship is cluttering your present. You watched your relationship burn down to ashes, now burn the material remains from it. You don't need a corner space in your closet to dedicate to that. Burn the pictures. Burn the cards. Burn the letters. Pawn the jewelry and buy yourself a nice pair of shoes (metaphorically speaking, you stomped on that situation like a cigarette and moved on). Donate the stuffed animals, it will probably make some child extremely happy. Now, move to the digital world, you are still connected through social media, aren't you? Delete and block. Do you need to see them drowning their sorrows with alcohol? Or with a new person, posting pictures and captions that once had your face and your name on? Delete and block their phone number. Don't make the mistake of a drunken encounter and don't give them that opening either. You may have years of memories posted on social media, create new accounts or go through the dreary process of eliminating things one by one (whichever works for you). Now, take a deep breath, you did it! You were handcuffed to the physical evidence of your past. Releasing yourself from it will help you unclench your fists. Don't worry, you're not creating an empty spot. That space in your closet will be filled with better things. That space in your heart will have room for better people and relationships.

It's not about you.

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Stop making it about yourself. Someone else's actions are not a reflection of who you are. You were treated a certain way because the other person chose to act that way. How you react to that is what determines your character. This is a key concept, not just in relationships, but in your everyday life. If you were mistreated by someone, don't think about what you did wrong to be treated that way. Think about the circumstances they are going through causing their attitude to divert from a "normal" and "accepted" one. In situations like these, our immediate reaction is to either snap back and treat them the same way or think about what we did to deserve that. It isn't about you. It wasn't your fault. Same goes for your past relationships, it wasn't your fault. It was circumstantial. Don't beat yourself up about someone else's actions. You made your set of sacrifices and did all that you could. If that wasn't enough for someone and they chose to act poorly or dissatisfied with it all, that is because they lack the maturity to understand it. A narcissistic human can only think about themselves in any given situation, therefore, It's not about you. It never was.

Face your fears

Another great way of letting go and moving on is facing your fears. What are your biggest fears? Again, write them out and cross them off one by one. It's like making a hit list of your "worst enemies" and eliminating them one after another (just trying to make it sound more dramatic, please don't actually do this). Whatever your fears might be, you have the power to control your mind and overcome those. Once you get past those fears, you become unstoppable. Be brave enough to take that leap. After a break-up, we are usually afraid of facing society, we are afraid of moving on, we are afraid of failing again. Just remember, no one will ever judge you if you choose your happiness over a manipulative relationship. On the contrary, they will be proud of your strength and idolize you for it. Once you do decide to move on, remember that no two people are the same. Your experience with each person is different. You can comprehend this when you think about your friends and family, then why is it hard to believe that not every person is out to break your heart?

A blast from the past

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An unrealistic way of dealing with a bitter past would be to pack up your things and leave. Move to a new city, at least about 2 hours away from your current residence. Mingle with a new group of people. Find a new job. Unfortunately, adults have other responsibilities and obligations that require them to stay put and work through things. If it were easy enough to move away from the chaos that weakened you at the knees, everyone would choose that option. You will run into your past, unexpectedly and probably, unfortunately. Don't panic. Just confuse them. Remember when they used "three words" to make you dazed and distracted? Use three words back. The words that will allow you to walk away as if you were in a movie, walking away from an explosion. "I forgive you". The three words that will empower you as a person, while leaving them feeling confused and concerned, maybe even annoyed.

Let go of unhealthy relationships.

This does not just apply towards romantic relationships. Sadly, this includes friends. An unhealthy relationship consists of someone who does not motivate you to progress in life, leads you in the direction of failure, generates hatred within you, physically or emotionally abuses you, negatively influences you, etc. Having the maturity to realize these signs and cut them out of your life is a drastic but necessary change. Slowly moving away from relationships that put you on a path of negative decisions and feelings will lead you towards prosperity when moving forward.

MISERABLE Release the toxic and infectious. Spreaders of misery, souls destroying souls. And poisonous liars. Awaken from the hallucinations. And take back your heart. Reclaim your self-esteem. And leave the toxic be. ― Giorge Leedy, Uninhibited From Lust To Love

Let go of your ego.

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These are some of the things that I have to work on to humble myself. I have them written down and try to look at them every single morning before starting my day. It's a way I bring myself back down to earth when I'm feeling higher than others. Write some down and try to look at them as a consistent reminder. You cannot control everything around you. You cannot win at everything. You are not always right. Not everything is about you. You can only forgive, not punish. Be thankful for the things you have. Apologize when you're wrong. Be free of anger and hatred.

Let go and be free.

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Releasing yourself from the chains of your past and living fully in the present is not something that can be implemented overnight. It is a slow, challenging, and tedious project. After all, you are working on yourself and you want the best possible outcome. Your present, although constructed from your past, is something you were privileged to have. Be thankful for it. Be appreciative of the fact that you were given the chance to flourish and prosper. Making positive changes day by day can help you be a better version of yourself in no time. Granted you will have days where it will all come back to you; just smile, count your blessings, be glad it happened, recount the lesson you learned from it, and move on with your day. That mound of sorrow you faced in your past will soon become a mountain that'll help you rise above all else. Learn to forgive, never wish ill upon those who hurt you, let go of the resentment, and just stay positive and think happy thoughts.

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