Young woman sitting on bench facing the sea in Thailand

A couple of days ago I bumped into a fellow walker who shared with me her ongoing upset at being estranged from one of her daughters. After a divorce, her middle child decided to stay in Europe with her Dad, she was 14 at the time.

It seemed she couldn’t escape the pain of the past.

It doesn’t help that they live in different countries…but they might as well live on different planets, the gap between them is so huge. And time keeps making it bigger and apparently nastier.

Despite her ongoing efforts to mend fences, nothing had worked. She was sad and despondent and maybe needed a different approach.

I told her the story of the woman who was banished from the life of her grandchildren because she and their mother had fallen out. Deeply saddened, she sat down and wrote her daughter-in-law an imaginary letter, in which she shared her sorrow at their estrangement and her desire for them to become closer.

She imagined receiving a letter in return that was forgiving and compassionate and loving. This became her daily imaginal practice.

Three months later, a letter arrived. Her daughter-in-law wrote to ask if they could put their differences aside for the sake of the children.

Far too many of us use our imagination to be anxious and upset instead of to create something wonderful. If you recognize this in yourself it’s critical for your long term happiness that you stop.

Sadly my walking companion said she wasn’t able to imagine a situation other than the one she was in. So caught up in the bitterness of the past was she, that she couldn’t let go of the thoughts and feelings that kept her there. Her imagination continued to be used against her.

You don’t have to do this to yourself. If you’re stuck in the pain of the past, here’s some strategies that might help you heal.

1. The possibility principle

Life definitely doesn’t come with any guarantees, but it is filled with possibilities. Despite the challenges hardships and heartache you might experience along the way, you can still open your mind and heart to new ideas, different options, and great opportunities.

You can choose to continue to be haunted and hurt by the past or learn from it.

The path to the future doesn’t stretch out in front of any of us in a straight line, there’ll always be detours and rough patches and a challenge or two thrown our way.

Don’t be the one standing in your way of happiness and joy by giving the past power over your present and your future.

When things get too overwhelming, try using the possibility principle.

It’s simple. Think a new thought. Stop censoring your experience and let your mind play with the belief ‘what if it were possible’ and you’ll be rewarded with a shift in your belief system big enough for the possibilities to become true for you. “When you think you’ve exhausted all the possibilities, remember this…you haven’t.”

2. Steer your ship carefully through the pain of the past

If your mind wastes your moments by continually revisiting the things you don’t want, take the next moment and put it on the things you really, really do want. You can never steer your ship into new waters by watching the wake.

No matter how long things have been wrong in your life, you can make them right. It’s important to hold positive expectations in your mind. The things you say to yourself every day lift you up, or hold you down.

The pain of the past will keep you in its grip unless you get your control back.

Remember your mind is powerful. Your beliefs are powerful. Your imagination is a creative force.

When you begin to believe that what you want is possible your mind can take over the job of accomplishing that possibility for you, regardless of how far fetched that might seem. And even better, your mind will actually expect to achieve that outcome.

Convince your mind that everything is possible and it will help you experience greater possibilities.

Some of my best experiences came to me when I dared to let go of what was, think of what I wanted and ignored what others told me was impossible.

3. Cultivate compassion

We live in such fear of being hurt that we continue to hold on to anger and upset far longer than is good for us.

Don’t hide from the hurts that life brings. You have to go through them if you want to get over them. Instead of focusing on everything and everyone who has hurt or wounded you, consider feeling compassion. When you open your heart to another’s struggles, you open your heart to your own and create greater inner peace.

Look into your heart and discover what brings you pain and determine never to inflict that on another…that’s true compassion. If someone is lashing out at you in anger, it’s because they’re afraid or in pain.

Risk holding out your hand when you’re higher up the mountain, risk helping another heal, risk shining your light when someone is struggling in the dark. Remember the more happiness you help others find, the more happiness will fill your days.

4. Give up wanting to be right

We all experience despair, heartache and disappointment. The winds of change blow across everyone’s life. Despite your best efforts things might have fallen apart. Rich or poor, educated or not, stuff happens.

When things change, we must change with them. Don’t let yourself be blown off course, be the one who does what it takes, not the one who only walks the easy path. It might hurt. It might take a while to find your new course but the rewards will be great.

The challenge in life is learning that you don’t have to be blown in a direction you don’t want to go. Respond, don’t react to events, however great the temptation.

Alter the way you see, judge or respond to the main challenges in life and you can dramatically alter the outcome. Give up needing to be right and you have a greater chance of rising to your greater self. It might be difficult or painful, but it’s far better than the consistent pain of unresolved heartache.

What about you? Have you found yourself in the middle of a situation where you made decisions from anger or hurt, or simply froze, hoping everything would somehow, some way magically turn out okay?

Thank you for being part of my world. 

Encourage one another.

Love Elle


Elle Sommer is the author of 4 books and a workbook. Her latest publications are a series called The Power of Consciousness, and you will find all three books in this trilogy now available on Kindle. She shares quotes, inspiration and positive vibes on Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest. And her greatest desire is to encourage and inspire others to create not just a good life, but a phenomenal life.


  1. Those two stories at the beginning are so potent, Elle. My life used to be exactly as you describe, Elle – reacting out of emotions. But now, I rarely think of the past. I think I could get better at staying in the positive and I appreciate your encouragement to do so.

    • ElleSommer

      Wow Sandra, how impressive that you’ve come so far in moving from reacting to responding…I know how challenging that is. Today, I know you as a truly mindful person and it’s inspiring to know it wasn’t always this way for you. You inspire and encourage us all to keep moving forward.

  2. Elle- I love the concept of the Possibility Principle….a great phrase. It almost reminds me of being in a cafteria line and being ready to take the same old, same old…until you look around and see that there are other choices… it is life. Most of us…without even realizing it…get stuck in old ways of feeling and acting …when in fact, our imaginations are the only thing that limit. us. As always, you brighten my day lovely lady…

    • ElleSommer

      Hi Fran, Love your analogy of the cafeteria. You’re so right, we get caught up in the emotional entanglement until it clouds our views of what else is available to us. I’m so happy you enjoyed the post. I know it sounds a lot like a mutual admiration society, but the article I read from you today really struck a chord with me too. 🙂

  3. Hi Elle,
    This is a post dealing with an extremely delicate subject of human relations and happiness.
    As an after thought i think we all needlessly postpone our happiness.
    We all want to be happy surely.But not now.
    To delay happiness is a cultural infection of sorts
    .Happiness is a mental concept.
    A distant reality dangling from a possibility that might happen.
    Or might not. Fear of falling short of our distant dreams eats into our present moments;and our feelings .I guess it seems better to prolong the waiting;than meet the improbability.
    And that is how we spend the major chunks of our lives.Yet happiness seldom knocks on the door of our day, uninvited.So we spend our slippery moments in tireless waiting.For that final knock.

    Like a drop of frozen wax,for most of us, happiness is just an object;an idea.No more a feeling.

    Yet you know; it can be created ,and felt.


    • ElleSommer

      Hi Mona…wow what a wealth of wisdom. Fear is the key here. Fear of getting it wrong, fear of getting hurt again, fear of being vulnerable. Where fear lives, love can’t enter. It’s always a choice…love or fear. 🙂

  4. Hi reading this was good for me, but I know all of this since a long time ago and believe me I have done the compassion thing to those that have hurt me and what it has cause is for them to use me knowing I am there to try and help. It has created a mental state to them that from lending a hand or favor it has become an obligation or my problem. It has made matters worst for me to the point I have had to push alot of family members away from my life.

    • ElleSommer

      Hi Maria, how lovely to have you share your views. I think there’s a big difference between allowing people to take advantage of your kindness and being supportive. Self-love matters, boundaries matter. Doing things for others that they’re perfectly capable of doing for themselves is ‘fixing’ and believe me I know all about that as a retired fixer.

      Life is all about balance isn’t it? 🙂

  5. HI, you have never failed to amaze me with your good, positive articles. I’ve always loved reading your post, and today, this is exactly what i needed. What struck me the most is when you mentioned that Life definitely doesn’t come with any guarantees, but it is filled with possibilities, this is so true. Thanks so much for sharing. Great post!

    • ElleSommer

      Hi Sherill. I’m truly happy that you enjoy what I write. I honestly think we’re all in the same boat floating with the ups and downs of our every day life and each one of us can always use a sprinkling of encouragement…I’m glad I get a chance to have that role. 🙂

    • ElleSommer

      Hi Paola, thanks for stopping by and enjoy your harvest of compassion. 🙂

  6. Great article, but the quote at the start had the biggest impact for me. I’ll put it here again, if only to ingrain it into my mind again!
    Thank you for sharing this with us.

    The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.

    • ElleSommer

      Glad you enjoyed the article and thanks for stopping by and saying so. I appreciate your encouragement. 🙂

  7. Thank for sharing this wonderful article. I have been through some tough times. Reading ur articles helps me stay focused on what I can or can’t do.

  8. Hi, thank you for this post. I’ve been holding on to past pain for a long time. I am tired. I don’t know how to stop my thoughts from bombarding me. Reading this has given me hope. I will hold on to those principles and exercise them with all of my being. And I pray they work in my life the way I’ve read has worked on the other women. Thank you.


    • Hi DP…I’m so sorry to hear that you’ve been holding on to pain for so long…that will absolutely wear you out. I do these that these principles help. From my own experience I will say that if you persist with them…you will experience a breakthrough. And may it come soon dear one. 🙂

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