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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.
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.