21st October 2021
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Godbless Akaighe

How do you let go of past hurts and move on? This is a question many of us ask ourselves each time we experience heartache or emotional pain. Holding on to the past can be a conscious and cognitive decision just as letting go and moving forward. This article is divided into three sections. First, I discuss some of the effects of hurts. Second, I talk about why you should let go of them them because it’s not worth losing sleep. Lastly, I conclude with practical steps on how to get over hurts and be free. Yes, it is possible!

Effects of hurts

If you suffer from hurts, one thing you are aware of is that it is more than feeling moody. Hurt affects not only how we feel, but how we think about things, our energy levels, our concentration, our sleep, even our interest in socialization and sex. It influences many aspects of our lives. Some of the examples are:

Motivation: hurt affects our motivation to do things. We can feel apathetic and experience a loss of energy and interest. Imagine losing a parent at a young age or even old age, it affects deeply as people react differently to situations. Some people may feel guilty that had they provided the right medical attention or resources, their loved ones would not have died. The same feeling is true of losing a treasured relationship even when it is no fault of theirs. The feeling of inadequacy and rejection affects our motivation to try again and forge ahead in life.

Thinking: hurt affects the way we think in two ways. First, it affects concentration and memory. You may find that you cannot get your mind to settle on anything. You also don’t remember things too well, and you are prone to forgetting things because it is easier to remember negative things than positive things. The second way that hurt affects our thoughts is in the way we think about ourselves, our future, and the world. With serious hurts, people don’t feel good about themselves and this negatively affects their self-esteem and self-worth.

Behavior: our behavior changes when we become hurt. We engage in much less positive activity and may withdraw socially and want to hideaway. Our behavior towards other people changes, too. We are likely to find ourselves more in conflict with other people. We may start to avoid meeting people or lose our social confidence.

Social relationships: even though we may try to hide our depression, it almost always affects others. As the saying goes “hurt people hurt other people”. We then become less fun to be with. We are irritable and find ourselves continually saying “NO” to everything. We need to acknowledge these feelings and not feel ashamed of them.

There are various reasons why our relationships may suffer:

  • There could be conflicts that we feel unable to sort out.
  • There may be unvoiced resentments.
  • We may feel out of control.
  • Our friends and partners may not understand what has happened to us.

There is a saying that “laugh and the world laugh with you but cry and you cry alone.” Hurts are difficult for others to comprehend at times.

Why you should let go of hurts

  • This is an imperfect world.
  • Maybe it was bound to happen to us. We all have a share of our hurts albeit in different forms and shapes.
  • We have hurt other people too but haven’t thought about that and made comparisons.
  • Forgiveness is more for your benefit than the person you need to forgive.
  • Free your soul from the bondage of the hurt and pain.
  • Forgiveness and letting go of your hurts bring healing both physical and psychological.
  • Letting go can increase your life span.
  • Lack of forgiveness and holding unto pains is affecting your progress in life. You have to recognize that this is a form of bondage).
  • There are new relationships to develop and your hurt is standing in the way.
  • The pains and hurts make us who we are. We are a product of our experiences.
  • Nothing that you have ever been through will be wasted. It will work out eventually for your good.
  • Your pain is your gain. Your misery is your ministry. Your pain is your passion. So, forgive yourself and convert that pain to your money earner.

Tips for letting go

One thing that connects us as human is our ability to feel pain. Whether that pain is physical or emotional, we all have experiences of being hurt. What separates us though, is how we deal with that pain. When emotional pain prevents you from healing from a situation, it’s a sign that we aren’t moving forward in a growth-oriented way.

One of the best ways to heal from hurts is to learn lessons from the situation and use those to focus on growth and forward momentum. If we get stuck in thinking about what “should have been,” we can become immobilized in painful feelings and memories. If you’re trying to move forward from a painful experience, but you’re not sure how to get started, here are some tips or steps to help you let go. Note that it is not a step-by-step approach because you can apply these steps or tips concurrently.

Create a positive mantra to counter the painful thoughts

How you talk to yourself can either move you forward or keep you stuck. Often, having a mantra that you tell yourself in times of emotional pain can help you reframe your thoughts. For example, clinical psychologist Carla Manly, Ph.D. says instead of getting stuck in, “I can’t believe this happened to me!” try a positive mantra such as “I am fortunate to be able to find a new path in life — one that is good for me.”

Create physical distance

It’s not uncommon to hear someone say that you should distance yourself from the person or situation causing your upset. According to clinical psychologists, that’s not such a bad idea. “Creating physical or psychological distance between ourselves and the person or situation can help with letting go for the simple reason that we are not having to think about it, process it, or being reminded of it as much.”

Do your work

Focusing on yourself is important. You must make the choice to address the hurt that you’ve experienced. When you think about a person who caused you pain, bring yourself back to the present. Then, focus on something that you’re grateful for.

Practice mindfulness

The more we can bring our focus to the present moment says a psychologist, a licensed marriage and family therapist, the less impact our past or future has on us. “When we start practicing being present, our hurts have less control over us, and we have more freedom to choose how we want to respond to our lives.”

Be gentle with yourself

If your first response to not being able to let go of a painful situation is to criticize yourself, it’s time to show yourself some kindness and compassion. Olivera a psychologist says this looks like treating ourselves like we would treat a friend, offering ourselves self-compassion, and avoiding comparisons between our journey and those of others. “Hurt is inevitable, and we may not be able to able to avoid pain; however, we can choose to treat ourselves kindly and lovingly when it comes.”

Allow the negative emotions to flow

If you fear that feeling negative emotions is causing you to avoid them, don’t worry, you’re not alone. Durvasula, a psychologist, says that many times, people are afraid of feelings such as grief, anger, disappointment, or sadness. Rather than feeling them, people just try to shut them out, which can disrupt the process of letting go. “These negative emotions are like riptides,” explains Durvasula. “Let them flow out of you… It may require mental health intervention, but fighting them can leave you stuck.” It is alright to cry and please forget the saying that men don’t cry. One of the best cries if there is anything like that is to cry in the presence of God. We call that worshiping in his presence.

Accept that the other person may not apologize

Waiting for an apology from the person who hurt you will slow down the process of letting go. If you’re experiencing hurt and pain, you must take care of your healing, which may mean accepting that the person who hurt you isn’t going to apologize.

Engage in self-care

When we are hurting, it often feels like there is nothing but hurt. Olivera says practicing self-care can look like setting boundaries, saying no, doing the things that bring us joy and comfort, and listening to our own needs first. “The more we can implement self-care into our daily lives, the more empowered we are. From that space, our hurts don’t feel as overwhelming,”

Surround yourself with people who fill you up

This simple yet powerful tip can help carry you through a lot of hurts. We can’t do life alone, and we can’t expect ourselves to get through our hurts alone either, explains Manly. “Allowing ourselves to lean on loved ones and their support is such a wonderful way of not only limiting isolation but of reminding us of the good that is in our lives.”

Permit yourself to talk about it

When you’re dealing with painful feelings or a situation that hurts you, it’s important to permit yourself to talk about it. Durvasula says sometimes people can’t let go because they feel they aren’t allowed to talk about it. “This may be because the people around them no longer want to hear about it or the person is embarrassed or ashamed to keep talking about it,” she explains. But talking it out is important. That’s why Durvasula recommends finding a friend or therapist who is patient and accepting as well as willing to be your sounding board.

Permit yourself to forgive

Given that waiting for the other person to apologize can stall the process of letting go, you may have to work on your forgiveness. Forgiveness is vital to the healing process because it allows you to let go of anger, guilt, shame, sadness, or any other feeling you may be experiencing and move on.

Seek professional help

If you’re struggling to let go of a painful experience, you may benefit from talking to a professional. Sometimes it’s difficult to implement these tips on your own, and you need an experienced professional to help guide you through the process.

To let go of past hurts, you need to make a conscious decision to take control of the situation. However, this can take time and practice. Be kind to yourself as you practice refocusing on how you see the situation and celebrate the small victories you have.

Godbless Akaigbe

Godbless Akaighe is a currently a Doctoral Researcher at the Institute of Work Psychology (IWP), Sheffield University Management School, United Kingdom. He is a Behaviourist, Associate Member of the Chartered Institute of Personnel Management of Nigeria (CIPM) and Associate Member of the Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria (CIBN). Prior to joining the University of Sheffield, He worked at the University of Lagos and at Lagos Business School-Pan Atlantic University.