Why do unhappy events stay on in the mind?
Why are we haunted by those episodes in our lives that left us grief-stricken, frustrated, resentful, hurt, guilty or upset, and not by those that left us happy and contented?
We’ve all been hurt by another person at some time or another — we were treated badly, trust was broken, hearts were hurt. And while this pain is normal, sometimes that pain lingers for too long. We relive the pain over and over, and have a hard time letting go.
Across the mind’s screen, unpleasant images of the past flash by more often than fulfilled pleasant ones. Perhaps the key lies in the word ‘fulfilled’. Fulfilment implies completion. It refers to something that is over, finished with, with no loose ends. Close that file. We need to click on the filename if we wish to open it.
Otherwise, the file is tucked away inside a folder, somewhere. However, numerous haunting memories continue as current files. Something in each one of them remains to be finished. It may well be an apology that was due. It could also be an unwillingness on our part to accept a loss. Whatever the case, that niggling file is always open in the mental computer screen. As sole operators of the ‘files’ that trouble us, we have it in our power to ‘complete’ those files and save them, too, in that folder in the recesses of the mind. But to do that, we will have to let go of some of the pride, hurt, guilt, resentment or whichever emotion is coming in the way of our ‘completing’ that file.
If you’re holding onto pain, reliving it, and can’t let go and forgive, try the tips below:
1. Make a descision. You aren’t going to do it in a second or maybe not even in a day. It can take time to get over something. So commit to changing, because you recognize that the pain is hurting you.
2. Think about the consequences. What problems does this pain cause you? Does it affect your relationship with this person? With others? Does it affect work or family? Does it stop you from pursuing your dreams, or becoming a better person? Does it cause you unhappiness? Think of all these problems, and realize you need to change. Then think of the benefits of forgiveness — how it will make you happier, free you from the past and the pain, improve things with your relationships and life in general.
3. Make a Choice. You cannot control the actions of others, and shouldn’t try. But you can control not only your actions, but your thoughts. You can stop reliving the hurt, and can choose to move on. You have this power. You just need to learn how to exercise it.
4. Empathize. Try this: put yourself in that person’s shoes. Try to understand why the person did what he did. Start from the assumption that the person isn’t a bad person, but just did something wrong. You aren’t saying what he did is right, but are instead trying to understand and empathize.
5. Own it Up. Try to figure out how you could have been partially responsible for what happened. What could you have done to prevent it, and how can you prevent it from happening next time? This isn’t to say you’re taking all the blame, or taking responsibility away from the other person, but to realize that we are not victims but participants in life.
6. Be Present with the ‘NOW’. Now that you’ve reflected on the past, realize that the past is over. It isn’t happening anymore, except in your mind. And that causes problems — unhappiness and stress. Instead, bring your focus back to the present moment. What are you doing now? What joy can you find in what is happening right now?
7. Connect Within. As you focus on the present, try focusing on your breathing. Imagine each breath going out is the pain and the past, being released from your body and mind. And imagine each breath coming in is peace, entering you and filling you up. Release the pain and the past.