Is it hard for you to let go of past experiences that have caused you emotional pain?
As human beings, we all experience some emotional suffering throughout our lives. Emotional suffering can be caused by rejection, ostracism, verbal degradation, abuse, neglect, betrayal, abandonment, or unfair treatment.
Research shows that emotional pain has the ability to come back over and over again, whereas physical pain lingers as an awareness that at one time the injury was painful, says Dr. Kip Williams, author and researcher from Purdue University.
Children are more susceptible to emotional pain because they are unable to defend themselves. In fact research shows that more than 75% of children growing up in America will experience emotional suffering or an emotionally traumatic event before age sixteen.
Since children typically do not have advanced coping skills to process or heal emotional pain, they often adopt unhealthy defense mechanisms as a strategy to avoid future pain, and continue functioning.
Unhealthy defense mechanisms can include stuffing down uncomfortable emotions with food, which can lead to obesity. Distracting from painful emotions by staying busy, which can lead to a lack of closeness in relationships. Medicating emotional pain with alcohol, drugs or numbing substances, which can lead to addiction. Ruminating on painful experiences, which can lead to more suffering anger, or depression. Unhealthy defense mechanisms can create barriers to happiness, health and well-being.
One way to know if you are still harboring emotional pain from the past, is when you recall the experience that caused emotional suffering, such as a death of a loved one, divorce, rejection from a friend or lover, unpleasant emotions still arise, such as anger, bitterness, resentment, sadness, or revenge.
It is important to ask yourself, ‘How long do I want to hold onto experiences that cause me emotional pain?’
‘How does holding onto these experiences help me?’
The good news is you can heal from past suffering and emotional pain, if you want to. Forgiveness is one way to do this. Forgiveness does not mean you forget the experience, it means you relinquish negative emotions attached to the hurtful incident. You can let go of undesirable emotions each time you recall the painful experience, by saying, “I unconditionally forgive (person who wronged me) for saying or doing (hurtful act).” You may have to repeat this forgiveness statement many times, depending on how much time has passed and how often you ruminate about the painful experience. Each time you repeat the forgiveness statement you will notice your emotions become less intense. You will know you have forgiven the past when your emotions are neutral upon recalling the past hurtful experience.
Another strategy to release emotional hurt from the past, is to journal the painful incident(s) you want to heal from. This allows you to get what is on the inside out of your being and onto paper. Afterwards, you can burn the paper, send it in a balloon to heaven or do a ritual that symbolizes you are letting go. Then say, “The past is gone forever. I no longer choose to be a victim to past hurtful memories.” Exhale deeply and imagine the memories being released from your being. Continue to say this statement and exhale each time your mind recalls the unpleasant event, until your emotions become neutral.
If you have a long history of abuse, it may be helpful to work with an effective counselor who is qualified to do deeper reprocessing work.
Remember that your natural state is that of well being. Each time you hold onto memories that are painful and negative, it robs your peace of mind and disallows for emotional well being.
A benefit to letting go of painful memories, is that it unclogs your energy system. Your energy system includes your thoughts, feelings memories and breath. This allows for more love, peace of mind and happiness, which can lead to a more fulfilling, abundant life.
You deserve to feel good and create a prosperous, hope filled future!
Written by, Elisabeth Davies, MC
Counselor and author of Good Things Emotional Healing Journal: Addiction
•Riva, P., Wirth, J. H., & Williams, K. D. (2011). The consequences of pain: The social and physical pain overlap on psychological responses. European Journal of Social Psychology, 41, 681-687.