“If you wouldn't let someone into your house, don't let that person
into your head.”—Arthur Brook
Are you ready to let go of former friends, lovers, and acquaintances who’ve left a cruel taste in your mouth? After all, if we don’t want them in our life, why would we allow them to occupy our thoughts?
Whether due to natural attrition or an intentional parting, some relationships aren’t meant to last forever. Like the ebb and flow of the tide, certain people also come and go. While departures may be natural evolutions due to timing, location, or change of interests, others are sudden and dramatic. Sadly, some of these exits can be explosive, causing heartache, pain, or even trauma. Often, it’s these volatile endings that inhabit our minds. As much as we’d like to dismiss these individuals from our heads, it’s futile. They refuse to leave—or we refuse to let them go. Instead, we rehash their hurtful words and actions, continuing the cycle of misery.
Yet, if the relationship is over, why do we fall prey to replaying those negative memory loops? After all, we know we’re only creating more pain.
Could it be we’re unable to surrender this repetitive pattern of thinking because it puts us in the victim role? Maybe doing so allows our ego to feel justified … instead of accepting that we, too, had a part in the situation. Or perhaps we’re looking for sympathy, constantly restating our tale in hopes of gaining reassuring affirmations from others.
“Your mind believes what you tell it, and your subconscious is always listening … so when you let it run on autopilot, you are paying a price.”—Rachelle Bevilacqua
Regardless of the why behind repeating these stories, when we can detach from a memory, thank it for its lesson, then let it—and the person—go, we begin the path to inner peace. Because when we hold on to animosity, we’re the ones who remain stuck in a metaphorical jail. The other person is often unaware of our inner turmoil. That’s why clinging to anger and blame over a past injustice only hurts us. Rarely does it change what occurred.
“As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn't leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I'd still be in prison.”—Nelson Mandela
Could leaving the past in the past be the cure that liberates us? Might softening our tight grip of anger, resentment, and judgment starts the healing process?
There have been many nights I’ve spent staring at the ceiling as negative loops of past relationships occupied my head. Of course, nothing good came from this. In fact, by replaying the mental movies of perceived injustices, I only carved those tender emotions deeper and deeper into the recesses of my body. Instead of erasing the pain, I deepened the wound.
But that’s not all … playing the victim prevented me from seeing my role in the situation. Rarely is only one person at fault. And when we identify as the victim, we relinquish our power, giving it to the person in our head.
There is one more step to liberation … but we must be ready to go there. It’s forgiveness, the true remedy for releasing our pain. Reframing the traditional definition of forgiveness helps us see it’s not about absolving another’s wrong doings. Forgiveness is what frees us from the story. It stops the negative loop and shows us another way, building our self-confidence and grace. When we forgive, we can let go.
The next time you find yourself rehashing a relationship gone bad, take a moment to pause. Remember, we don’t have to allow these individuals space in our heads. Next, identify and fully feel the emotions attached to the situation before releasing them. And then, if you are able, consider forgiveness.
Sit back and watch as the hurt subsides and sensations of freedom take its place.