Are you struggling to break free from a painful past?
Do you have the feeling of being stuck in the past?
I’m not talking about the occasional reminiscence about the past.
It is the experience of being stuck in anything from a bad relationship to the death of a loved one. The feeling that something in your past is holding you back from living the life you want in the present.
The one from which you believe you will never be able to break free. You might not remember what exactly it is, but you know it is lying latently in your subconscious mind.
Whatever the situation is, feeling stuck doesn’t make you feel good about yourself.
Neuroscientists have affirmed that your brain will likely remember negative experiences over positive ones. This is known as negative bias, where you only focus on the bad things that have happened in your life.
So, why do negative events have a greater impact on your brain than positive ones? Stanford University professor of psychology, Laura Carstensen, testified that our brains have been hardwired for survival since prehistoric times.
Furthermore, negative events have an adaptive value. According to her, our primal instinct to survive makes it:
“… more important for people, for survival, to notice the lion in the bush than it is to notice the beautiful flower that’s growing on the other side of the way.”
You can’t change the way your brain is hardwired. But you can train your brain to detach itself from negative experiences, especially your emotional attachment to the past.
You can change your mindset. When you gradually begin to think more positive thoughts, you are experiencing a mindset shift. Changing mindset from negative to positive can put your life on a different trajectory.
So, how certain are you that your past is still haunting you? Does it affect you so much that it gets in the way of you achieving a brighter future?
Well, here are two signs you are still stuck in the past:
Emotions help you navigate the world around you. If you’ve been through trauma during childhood, your painful emotions will warn you what to avoid and when to recover.
As a child, you were unable to express or resolve these negative emotions, you might resort to numbing them.
Emotional numbing might protect you from further emotional or physical pain. But it would also hold you back from being a healthy and happy person. You cannot just numb any emotions you want.
Your positive emotions will be numbed alongside negative ones. You’ll end up stifling your ability to experience love, joy, and pleasure.
Based on research published in Child Development, The flagship journal of the Society for Research in Child Development (SRCD):
You “arrived” in this world with a clean slate and the potential to enjoy unlimited joy and abundance. Yet, trauma or challenging experiences from your childhood form part of your identity, self-esteem and your perception of the world.
These experiences are responsible for the limiting beliefs you have about yourself and others. They’re so deeply ingrained in your subconscious mind that they might prevent you from moving forward in your life.
The feeling that you’re not good enough will play out repeatedly throughout your teenage years and into adulthood.
You may find yourself re-enacting similar scenarios in your life, with different people and in different circumstances. In order to break free from them, you must heal these dysfunctional patterns and beliefs in your subconscious mind.
Why do you continue to live in the past if you can’t change it?
One of the reasons is because your brain processes negative thoughts more fully due to the negative bias discussed earlier. As a result, similar to running on a treadmill, you will develop a strong attachment to your bad memories.
And you will be unable to move forward no matter how hard you try.
To get yourself unstuck, always bear in mind that change must first happen from within. If you wait for external change to happen, change might never happen.
Here are three self-help tools you can use to move on from your past and bring about progress from within:
Pioneered by University of Pennsylvania psychologist Martin Seligman, positive psychology is the science that explores the positive qualities of your life.
The focus is on the character traits and actions that enables you to live life with meaning and purpose. Positive psychology will help you transcend from surviving to flourishing.
One way to break free from your past is – stop looking into it and trying to fix what was broken. You simply just need to focus on your personal strengths and positive emotions.
You can begin this process by observing your thoughts. Life can be challenging and will try to throw curveballs at you. Even if it is hard to keep a positive outlook, start by identifying negative thoughts as they occur.
These thoughts, if left unchecked, can cause unpleasant emotions like unworthiness, anxiety, depression, and fear.
Just remember that you are in control of your thoughts. All you need to do is just switch your thoughts to create a new and better reality for yourself.
After learning to shift your thoughts, the next step is to redirect your emotions. All feelings are equal, and they take on whatever meaning that we have assigned to them. The feeling of anxiety, for example, can cause physical and emotional distress.
However, if you use it positively, it can inspire you and make you more aware of your current situation. Positive psychology will give you a healthy balance so that you will not let negative feelings drag you down.
Imagine being able to completely neutralize the traumatic experience from your past. The ability to distance from the past will reduce the negative impact those memories have on your present life.
This handy tool is from the playbook of NLP. As the name suggests, Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP)* is a therapeutic tool that involves your thoughts, the way you communicate with yourself/others and your behavioral pattern to bring about positive changes in your life.
* NLP is a psychological technique for influencing your brain’s (Neuro) processing of the words you use (Linguistic) and how that impacts your past, present, and future (Programming).
Try this mental exercise to initiate a mindset shift in your life:
Create mental pictures to detach from unwanted memories and emotions from your past with this simple but effective method.
You begin by visualizing a still, static picture of yourself sitting in an empty movie theatre. You’re feeling safe, secure, and very relaxed as the movie begins. Allow that warm feeling to envelope you as you see past events unfold in front of you like a movie.
As you are watching the events as an outsider, just think about what you can learn from them. If you’ve any feelings of discomfort or uneasiness, take a deep breath and imagine yourself floating out of your body.
You find yourself floating above the ceiling of the theatre. And you can “see” yourself watching a movie about your past.
Using this method, you now see those painful events with neutral eyes. You may now learn valuable lessons from these experiences without being plagued by the bad emotions that accompany them.
Once you are able to see these events from a neutral position, slowly float back into your body.
Allow the feeling of calm, comfort, and security to encompass you and slowly open your eyes. Once you’re back in the present moment, you’ll realize that the events you have “witnessed” are just a movie.
Start with an experience that you feel completely safe revisiting if these former events are too traumatic for you. Once you are familiar with using this method, you can move on to tackle the deeper issues of your past.
Positive psychology helps you stay present by focusing on the positive aspects of everything. To “rewrite” your past, you can use age regression therapy.
There has been debates over whether or not this strategy should be used. Bringing these memories to light can be a terrible experience and can re-ignite negative feelings.
Even though your memories are stored in your mind, not all of them are accessible consciously. Your subconscious mind works to protect you by blocking memories from your childhood that might be too painful for you.
You can employ guided hypnosis to “re-write” your past. This therapy works on the premise of “revisiting” your past and “re-labeling” those painful and traumatic memories.
You may have the ability to do what you were not able to do as a child. As an adult, you can reflect on and rationalize the events of your past.
Finally, rather than bringing these events into your daily life, you want to disassociate from them and put them behind.
In a guided hypnotic state, you can safely look back on events in your life. Age regression therapy is usually run over several sessions where it gets progressively more intense.
An experienced hypnotherapist can assist you in identifying the negative emotions that are affecting your life.
Do not let you past traumas and painful memories dictate how you should live your life. You can take some positive steps to move forward confidently into the future.
Here is a simple relaxation exercise you can use anywhere. If you can, choose a comfortable, peaceful, and secure location.
Gently close your eyes and take a deep breath…with each breath you are feeling more and more comfortable and more and more relaxed…where ever you are now…you are experiencing a very calm and confident feeling…
You can be aware that negative emotions are not beneficial for you moving forward…and you will only focus on positive thoughts and feelings…
From this moment onwards…you have decided to be happy with what you do have…you will begin to shift your mindset… and you will release all negative thoughts that you are holding on to…any negative emotions that you are still carrying from your past… frustration…anger… sadness… fear…
You can release these negative emotions now…and allow yourself to be totally free…let them go…
From this moment onwards… your unconscious mind will assist you to switch mindset…and create positive thoughts and emotions…whenever you experience a negative thought…you have a choice…thoughts are in your control… feelings are in your control …
And you will choose only to have good thoughts and positive emotions …whenever you are aware of a negative thought or emotion … you will automatically turn it into a positive thought…
Now…as you take a deep breathe…and you can feel all those negative thoughts leaving your body…you feel relived and renewed…with each breathe…your subconscious begins to change your mindset…the negative emotions and feelings are leaving your body…
And when you breath in…you are bringing positive and empowering energy and emotions into your body…from this moment onwards…you will only accept positive words…thoughts…and feelings…into your body…into your whole being…
… you are ready to leave your past behind…you have taken the necessary lessons from it…lessons that will empower you in the present and the future…so…you can just thank your past…for the experience and for the learning…you can move confidently forward now…each and every day…you feel inspired and empowered…
And when you breath in…you know that your improving mindset…brings positive and empowering energy and emotions into your body…from this moment onwards…you will only accept positive words…thoughts…and feelings…into your body…into your whole being…
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