With a new year comes a fresh start and a desire for change/growth. It feels great to release the old and begin anew. But that’s often easier said than done.
Despite making resolutions or setting intentions most people swiftly slip back into familiar habits. Real change requires deep work. Otherwise, making a resolution is like putting a fresh coat of paint on something without stripping the old paint or prepping the surface–it’s superficial change that won’t last. Our habits are the result of our thoughts and our thoughts are influenced by our life experiences. Meaningful growth asks you to look at your past and how it influences your present behavior.
Release the Past
To be clear, letting go of the past doesn’t mean pretending something didn’t happen or miraculously feeling good about what happened. Obviously, we learn and grow from challenging experiences so it’s beneficial to be mindful of the lessons. But if you really, truly want to undo the negative influences of the past, you have to recognize how you continue to hold onto and identify with them.
Blaming, Victimization and Romanticizing
Blaming, victimization and romanticizing are common attitudes that keep people stuck. You may feel like you’ve put the past behind you, yet you continue to harbor deep seeded anger or resentment regarding someone else’s behavior. It’s true that people act in vile, cruel or ignorant ways that hurt others. It’s not ok and it’s not fair. However, when you hold onto blame, you hold onto your own disempowerment.
Identifying with victimization impedes your ability to transform pain. You may feel that if you release blame then you’re forgiving and forgetting the misdeeds. But that’s not how it has to be. It IS possible to hold people accountable for their actions and the damage they caused without holding onto the story that you’re a powerless victim. Observing events with some objectivity helps you become a survivor, a THRIVER who has reclaimed personal power and moved past the hurt.
We romanticize when we operate from a perspective that things SHOULD have been different. We should have had loving, present parents; we should have been treated better by our lovers; we should have gotten the opportunity; we should have responded differently… But the truth is, so much of what we believe should have been is rooted in fantasy. Most people don’t have idyllic childhoods and everyone experiences loss and trauma. Let go of the idea that the situation should be different and accept that life often presents hard or undesirable events. It’s how you deal with those events that makes the difference.
Honor and attend to the suffering of your former self.
This means stepping into and exploring the darkness. Unpacking ALL of the emotions associated with the unpleasant experience is difficult but essential for true healing.
Sit with the memories.
Notice how your body feels as you recall past experiences. Bring your attention to areas of physical discomfort. Do this without judgment or resistance. Simply feel into the sensations. Breathe into them. Move, stretch, or massage as needed. Visualize healing light or energy dissolving the discomfort.
Give yourself permission to feel.
Give yourself permission to feel all of the emotions that arise along with the memories. This can be complicated, especially if you label certain emotions as “unacceptable.” DO NOT DENY YOUR TRUTH. You’re not bad or wrong for feeling what you feel–you’re human, we’re a weird fucked up species, so accept and own whatever comes up for you. Imagine having a conversation with the version of you that went through the struggle. Listen and hold space for whatever truth that version needs to express. Do this without judgment or criticism. If there is anger or frustration that needs to be released, imagine letting it out. In your mind’s eye you can scream, yell, and get as violent as you need to. Do this as long or as often as necessary to feel complete. Then offer your former self some love and reassurance. Explain how you’ve grown and what you’ve learned, or simply imagine giving yourself a hug.
This is difficult work that may require several “sessions.” It’s important to take care of yourself after such emotional exploration. Drink plenty of water, do some yoga, go for a walk, sit in nature, take a bath, sip tea–do anything that helps you feel relaxed and calm.
Letting go of blame and examining your past with love and courage will help you identify and dislodge old patterns of thought and behavior that have kept you stuck. It allows you to shed layers of who you no longer wish or need to be so that you can feel fully alive.
With Love & Compassion,
Adina Arden Cooper
I'm a lover, a guide, a supportive companion. A storyteller, an artist, an ally and an advocate. I help individuals thrive and communities come together through counseling, coaching, and community building. I believe that shared humanity is a powerful strength and that our stories connect us in beautiful and sacred ways. As I stumble, skip, or soar my way through this life, I invite you to join me on the journey. Likewise, I'm honored to travel with you. In witnessing one another, we find meaning.