Many women find themselves struggling with what to do with their past experiences. All of us sometimes feel haunted by our past. The most common experiences we have trouble letting go of are usually regrets, experiences of rejection, disappointments, traumatic events and tragic losses. Virtually all of us have experienced several these in our lifetimes. Sometimes we can move through them and let go of them without assistance, in a natural way. Those experiences seldom bother us, though we may be reminded of them from time to time. Other experiences seem to linger in our psyches for months or years, taking up time and psychic energy better spent on the present and the future we wish to create.
Why do some people move past loss more easily than others? And what can we do to help ourselves move forward and put the painful parts of our past in the past and leave them there? There are several factors that determine how difficult or easy it is for a person to let go of past disappointments and losses. Our reactions can be affected by our personalities (how optimistic or pessimistic we tend to be), the larger context of our lives (whether our lives are generally satisfying or unsatisfying), and by the larger meaning and personal symbolism of that experience or event.
One key to putting the past in the past is the concept of resilience. While some people seem to be born more resilient than others, resilience is also a set of skills and attitudes that can be learned and improved at any age. In its simplest definition, resilience means “bouncing back” from bad experiences and resuming our forward movement in life. Rather than focusing on their regrets and experiences of rejection, resilient people seek reasons for living beyond the traumatic experiences in their lives. To transcend tragedy, we must call upon our inner strength and support systems to give us a way to keep negative experiences from maintaining the upper hand. Let’s focus on ways in which we are already resilient and how to increase our resilience in response to the unpredictable twists and turns of life.
- In general, how resilient do you feel you are as a person? Do you tend to cling to the past?
- Who are some of the most resilient people you know? Do you know people who have been able to move forward and really let painful past experiences be in the past?
- What are your most significant regrets and losses and how well have you been able to move past them?
- If you are feeling stuck or particularly haunted by one or more past events and experiences, what tools have you found that you might use to get unstuck and begin moving forward?
- Have you found therapy, support groups, spiritual or religious practices, trauma recovery counseling or self-help books to be useful in helping you move beyond past painful experiences? How have these helped you?