All of us have been hurt. But you may be surprised to learn that what you do with that hurt is up to you. Do you want to go back to actively participating in life? Or are you satisfied to dwell on the past and ruminate endlessly over things that can no longer be changed?
When we’re hurt, most of us start by blaming others—somebody wronged us, or did something wrong in a way that mattered to us. So, we want them to apologize and admit that they did something wrong.
But blaming others for your hurt leaves you powerless. For example, when you confront the one who hurt you, they say they didn’t, or worse, that they don’t care. That leaves you angry and hurt, with no resolution.
All of your feelings are valid. It’s important for you to feel them, but then you must move on. Indefinitely nursing grievances is a bad habit. This will hurt you more than it will hurt the other person.
Holding on to past hurts forces you to constantly relive the pain in your mind. Some people even get stuck in the pain, hurt, and blame. The only possible way you can allow new happiness and joy to enter your life is to make a place for it. If your heart is full of hurt and pain, you can’t be open to anything new.
Here are five things you can to help you let go of past hurts:
- Choose to let it go.
Your feelings won’t dissipate on their own. You must commit to releasing them. If you don’t consciously make this choice, you’ll self-sabotage any efforts you make to move on.
Consciously deciding to release your feelings also means acknowledging the fact that you have a choice in the matter. Most people feel empowered by this realization that it’s up to them to decide either to hold on to the hurt or to go on without it.
- Express your hurt.
Communicating about how the hurt made you feel will help you get it out of your system. Either express yourself directly to the other person, or let it out by venting to a friend, journaling, or writing a letter you don’t intend to send to the person who hurt you. This will also help you sort out exactly what you’re hurt about.
- Accept your responsibility.
We don’t live in a black-and-white world, even though it sometimes feels as though we do. You may not share equal responsibility in the situation that hurt you, but you’re certainly responsible for at least part of it. There are things you could do differently next time. You are not a hopeless victim. You are an active participant in this thing called life. Don’t allow your pain to become your identity. You’re deeper and more complex than that.
- Stop playing the victim card.
Let’s be honest: being the victim can feel good. It’s like you’re on the winning team of yourself vs. the world. But the world doesn’t care. You have to get over yourself.
Don’t get me wrong: You are special. And your feelings do matter. But don’t confuse “your feelings matter” with “nothing else matters.” In the big picture, your feelings are one small element. Life is complex and interwoven. And it’s often messy.
You have a choice in every moment: continue feeling bad about the other person’s actions, or start to feel good. Take responsibility for your happiness. Stop putting so much power into somebody else’s hands. Why would you allow the person who hurt you in the past have so much power in the here and now? Stop choosing to devote so much thought and energy to a person who has wronged you.
- Focus on joy and the present.
Now is the time to stop reliving the past and to let it go. Stop telling yourself the story where you’re forever the victim of the other person’s awful deeds. You can not undo the past. You can make the present the best time of your life.
Focusing on the here and now gives you less time to dwell on the past. Memories are bound to sneak into your consciousness from time to time. Simply acknowledge them for a moment, then gently bring yourself back into the present.
Crowding our lives with hurt feelings leaves no room for positive things. It’s your choice: continue feeling hurt, or allow happiness back into your life.
- Forgive them.
We may never forget the other person’s bad behaviors, but everyone deserves forgiveness. Forgiving others involves empathizing with them and seeing things from their perspective.
When we’re stubbornly stuck in our pain, we can’t imagine granting forgiveness. But forgiving doesn’t mean you’re agreeing with what they did, and you’re not showing weakness. It’s simply saying, “You hurt me. But can’t move forward in my life and find joy until I let this go.”
- Forgive yourself.
Forgiving yourself is another important component of this process. Sometimes we may blame ourselves for the hurt. You may have played a role in the hurt, but there’s no reason to continue upsetting yourself up over it. You won’t be able to live in happiness and peace if you can’t forgive yourself.
It’s hard to release pain. After holding on to it for so long, it becomes an old friend. It feels sacrilegious to get over it. But nobody should define their life by their pain. It’s isn’t healthy. It adds to your stress. It hurts your ability to work, study, and focus. It negatively impacts every relationship we have. Each day you decide to hold on to the pain is another day everyone around you must live with your decision and suffer its consequences.
So, release the pain. Welcome joy back into your life.