How to Let Go of Past Mistakes

By Dr. Paula Fellingham

I’ve never met a person who hasn’t struggled, at one time or another, with poor decisions they made in the past. How do we let go of negativity? How do we release ourselves from past mistakes?

Here’s the challenge:

Janet, a 39 year old divorced mother of three is unhappy most of the time. She asked, “How do I let go of the negativity from my past? I keep thinking about the mistakes I made and the people who hurt me. How do I release myself from the past?

Here’s the solution:

Everyone 30 and older regrets a ton of stuff – mistakes we’ve made, things we’ve said, ways we’ve handled relationships. We’ve all had painful experiences that we can easily recall. And well-meaning people (relatives, mostly) tell us to “just forget about it!”  But how?

Truly, unless you lose your memory you can’t totally forget. And you shouldn’t desire to totally forget your past because all experiences can be for your good when you discover how to pull valuable life lessons out of the pain.

From painful experiences we learn what works for us and what doesn’t, and what personalities we can and can’t handle. We learn that we can survive and be stronger because of the refiner’s fire we walked through. And we learn how to listen more carefully, appreciate more fully, and love more deeply. Yes, you can be a better, stronger person today because of past mistakes. The trick is to take the best and discard the rest.

A powerfully effective way to do that is to release yourself from negative thoughts. Prevent mental torment by stopping the anguish the moment it enters your mind. When the negative thought first presents itself like, “If I’d been there more often when my son was little we’d have a better relationship now. I was a bad mom.”  LABEL it and say to yourself, “That’s negative.” Labeling a thought acts like a huge stop sign.

Then REPLACE the thought with a better one. Here’s a good replacement: “I made the best decision I could with the information I had at the time. I have more information now and I’ll do better in the future.” You didn’t try and make mistakes! Be kind to yourself. Get out of the past and into the future with self-talk that takes you there.

 

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