Releasing yourself from the past


"Stop being the prisoner of your own past. Become the architect of your future."- Robin Sharma

Many people feel stuck in their own life and hopeless, having a dark vision of the future and unable to enjoy the present moment because the weight of past burdens presses their existence. I’m saying that suffering keeps them stuck, but in fact they cling to that suffering through their thoughts, through the constant remembrance of certain events, through the stubbornness with which they don’t cease to punish themselves for certain mistakes, through the emotions and negative feelings that they have towards them or towards others.

Throughout our life we carry with us countless stories, stories about ourselves or about others. There have been people who have harmed us, consciously or unconsciously. We ourselves made mistakes. We were hurt and we suffered. Some have managed to get over these things more easily and get rid of the past, others harder, and others are still living every day those stories.

I'll tell you a story to illustrate that. He and she meet, fall in love and start a relationship. Each of them was waiting impatiently that person who would come and complete their existence. Fired up by love, they start to plan their future together because they finally found someone to make them happy. He projects on her the image of the ideal woman and he tries to change her to better suit his needs and desires. She does the same thing. Each puts on their partner the responsibility of their happiness. Although they realize in time that the chosen partner is not the right one, they don’t get out of the relationship but continue to pressure each other to fit. The reproaches, emotional blackmail and manipulation begin. The two gradually begin to distance themselves from one another and to feel they are not accepted or understood.  But they continue to lie and to deceive themselves. If he expects her to behave in a certain way, she will feel a certain pressure to behave in that way, although she doesn’t want. If she behaves as she is, he will feel hurt and get angry. In order to avoid his judgment, his lack of acceptance, the accusations and the “punishments”, she will submit, choosing to accept the role he desires. Playing a role she will no longer be authentic. Perhaps she will begin to lie to avoid conflicts, she will think it’s  useless to express her wishes or to share with him future plans and she will feel more and more unappreciated. Deep down she starts to perceive her partner as a stranger. But she doesn’t leave him. Habit, hope, convenience, fear, all this make her stay. Years go by and she meets someone else. The two begin a secret relationship. Shortly everything comes out and a new drama begins. He feels betrayed, lied to, deceived, hurt and can’t forgive her for her mistake. The reproaches, accusations and victimization begin from both of  them. All the resentment she feels towards him come to the surface."If you would have accepted me as I am, if you would have shown me respect and appreciation, perhaps I didn’t feel the need to escape this marriage." And he, in return, reproaches her for being false, for not loving him, for not respecting him. But he tried to change her, to make her give up her authenticity, and consequently she became "false". They broke up but they continue to carry their unhealed wounds. Actually none of them took responsibility. He still blames her for their failed marriage and she does the same thing. If they had taken the responsibility for their own happiness from the beginning, perhaps they wouldn’t have come into this situation. But they can’t get over what happened, they regret that they have lost so many years of living together with the wrong person, and their resentment and negative feelings prevent them from moving on. It is as if they have lost confidence in themselves and in others.

I gave you this example to understand that the most important thing to release yourself  from the past is to assume your part of responsibility for what happened, to learn your lessons and to try to see the situation differently. Give it another meaning. For example, if she had assumed that she had come to this situation because she didn’t have the courage to move away from him when she realized they weren’t compatible, she wouldn’t have seen him as “the man who destroyed her life”. Because in the end it was her choice to stay and any choice has its consequences. He, in turn, could have distanced himself from her if he couldn’t accept her as she was, instead of trying to change her and then blaming her for her lack of authenticity. When we blame others, we give up our personal power. We want them to admit that they wronged us, to ask for forgiveness, but if that doesn’t happen, all the anger and resentment turn against us as a boomerang.

This is just an example but there are so many stories we hold that don’t allow us to really live our life.

The story "Because of her / him / them ..."

The story "If I had done things differently..."

The story "It's too late for me..."

The story "If I had been born in another family, another country..."

The story "Yes, I want to release myself but..."

The story "If I had more power,  if I loved myself more..."

The story "Even though others can, I am the exception ..."


All these stories we tell to ourselves, which are actually based on limiting beliefs, make us feel shameful, guilty, sad, meaningless, make us have resentment and regrets.

One way we can release ourselves from the suffering of the past is to rewrite these stories. To think about what we have learned from them, how they have contributed to what we are today. Our life is as we perceive it through our mental filters, through our thoughts and attitudes. Therefore, you can continue to feel pity for yourself for what happened then, or you can see the story from another point of view. Our experiences are what we make them to be. The perceptions we have can free us, or on the contrary, can make us live in a prison of our own mind.


In conclusion, what can you do?

Take the decision to let go of the past because, yes, it’s a decision. By doing so, you will start to become more and more careful and aware when you begin to remember the past stories, to feel again the pain, to examine thoroughly what has happened. And so being fully aware of what you are doing, you can stop.

Understand and accept the situation - look at the story of your life as if you were an observer. You are not your past or your story. The situations, people and patterns you have followed have helped you create your experiences, but they don’t define you. If you understand this, you also understand that once you become aware and change the thinking, relating and behaving patterns your life can change. By accepting what it was and understanding what happened, you can consciously decide to do things differently from now on.

Express your pain, release it and take responsibility - Are you upset about something you did and you can’t forgive yourself? Understand that if you knew better, you would have done things differently. Take responsibility for your actions, forgive yourself and move on. Are you upset with somebody else? Express your feelings either directly or indirectly - you can even write a letter that you can destroy afterwards to free yourself of everything you have repressed so far and end that chapter.

Stop victimizing yourself and stop blaming others - As I said before, why would you want to give so much power to the person who wronged you in the past, making him responsible for your present happiness? You can’t be happy because someone hurt you sometime and you don’t want to free yourself from that memory.

Learn to live in the present - If you let your mind wander in the past, in the sufferings or joys you had then, you’ll live in pain and melancholy and you’ll miss the present moment when everything is possible. The past no longer exists and has no power over you, if you choose so.

Create in the present moment, step by step, the future you dream of - anyway you do it, but you can do it consciously or unconsciously. Your only power is here and now. Everything else is an illusion.

Forgive - to forgive doesn’t mean that you agree with what the other person did, but it means to understand what has happened, to release yourself from the past, to move on with your life and not to allow that person to hurt you. Forgiveness is an act that frees you from your inner bitterness, shame, anger, or regret, understanding that there is no point in opposing a thing that has already happened and can no longer be changed. To forget the injustice or the abuses you’ve been through isn’t realistic, but forgiveness helps you reflect and thus choose more wisely in the future. Many people say they have forgotten because they forgave, but they often do nothing but avoid a confrontation with themselves or with the past running away from the pain they repress, and from which they could learn instead. On the other hand there are people who say they have forgiven, though they haven’t actually forgiven, because by forgiveness they put themselves above others. I am a good person if I forgive and it doesn’t really matter that I actually lie to myself and repress my feelings. Forgiveness is not about the other person, is about you. You don’t forgive to make his life more beautiful or to absolve him of guilt, but for your own release.

Finally, I invite you to say in a comment if there are situations in your life that you haven’t been able to overcome and what do you think you need to release yourself from the past.


Dr. Ursula Sandner



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