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Issue 107

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In this issue ~~

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Moving Beyond the Past

Let's face it . . . we all resist change. We get comfortable with the status quo, and change -- good or bad -- throws us out of our comfort zone. But we can't create bright new futures without moving beyond the past.

Ironically, either a positive or a negative past can keep us just as stuck. Losing a positive situation is unsettling, but even a negative past can become entrenched in our identity -- we don't know who we are without it. As long as we're weighted down by the baggage of what was, we don't have the energy to create new opportunities that can bring us joy and excitement that surpasses anything we've had before.

The specter of the past can haunt us in many ways::

  • Your previously soaring career is taking a nose dive, as you and your contemporaries find yourselves being devalued and replaced by younger talent.
  • You were a "looker" -- you stopped traffic. Now that you're middle-aged, wo/men hardly give you a second glance.
  • You had a difficult childhood. You grew up in a dysfunctional family and were painfully shy, so you didn't have many friends. Now, you have great social skills and plenty of friends, but you don't trust that they really like you.
  • It was always easy to get work. You leaped from one job to another with ease. Now, you've been laid off and can't even get an interview. You're beginning to doubt your competence.
  • You've suffered an illness or an accident. You don't have the strength, energy or ability to do the things you used to do. You feel "washed up."
  • You've always been happy being a follower. Now, you're bursting with creative ideas, but you're afraid to step out and do your own thing.
  • You were a professional athlete / dancer / mountain climber. Now, you creak just getting out of bed in the morning. You feel sad and frustrated that you can't do the things you used to.
  • You loved being half of a couple (or part of a group). Now, you're on your own, and it's scary to create a new life without that sense of partnership and support.

So, how do you let go and move into the next phase of life, whether it seems to be better or worse than the one that you left behind?

  • Grieve
    Any change involves a loss. It's important to grieve the loss in order to let it go. Even if the change is a positive one, you may feel sad, for example, that the younger you missed out on having the success or good health or loving relationships that you have now. Or you may be leaving behind people or situations that you enjoyed, even if it's for something better. You need to grieve that, so you can move beyond it.
  • Forgive
    You may feel angry at the situation, the person(s) who caused it or the person(s) you lost. Even if there was malicious intent involved, holding grudges drags you down and eats up precious energy that you need to create your own life. If you blame yourself, you need to forgive that as well.

Forgiveness doesn't mean condoning hurtful behavior. It means releasing yourself from the situation, so you can move on. There's a saying that staying angry at someone, thinking that you're punishing them, is like taking poison and waiting for the other person to die. Forgive as a loving act for yourself, and you'll drop the burden of the past that's keeping you stuck.

  • Create a ritual
    For some people, having some sort of ritual to demarcate "stepping over the line" into the future is helpful in letting go of the past. For example, you might write a good-bye letter to the person or situation, and then burn or bury it, or throw it in the ocean (with or without the bottle!).

It's also important to create a new self-image to go with your new life. You might get a makeover, redecorate your home or create a vision board with pictures that represent the new, future you. Write a vision statement that illustrates the life you would love to have, one that excites you. Some people even take on a new name that represents them more authentically and brings a fresh, new energy.

In this fast-changing world, we need to reinvent ourselves from time to time to keep up. We don't want to keep dragging old, stale energy with us. The past, despite its impact on us, has become a story, and we can write a new chapter to reflect the future life we want to have, instead of telling the same old tale over and over again.

There's a saying that when one door closes, another opens. Life happens in stages, and there's always potential for new growth and contribution, whether you chose the change or it was thrust upon you. Move into your next stage with a lighter load, and your new creations will happen more quickly and you'll enjoy them that much more.

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Action Challenge

What do you need to do to release the past -- grieve, forgive and/or create a ritual? Search the Internet or your personal library to find resources to help you do that, or use some of the suggestions in the Bookshelf section below. Then, set aside time in your calendar to work on it.

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Wise Words

"Look not mournfully into the past. It comes not back again. Wisely improve the present. It is thine. Go forth to meet the shadowy future, without fear."

~ Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

"Without freedom from the past, there is no freedom at all, because the mind is never new, fresh, innocent."

~ Krishnamurti

"The farther behind I leave the past, the closer I am to forging my own character."

~ Isabelle Eberhardt

"When you understand that what you're telling is just a story. It isn't happening anymore. When you realize the story you're telling is just words, when you can just crumble it up and throw your past in the trashcan, then we'll figure out who you're going to be."

~ Chuck Palahniuk

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Bookshelf

(click on the book to see a description at Amazon.com)

Transitions: Making Sense of Life's Changes . . . William Bridges

Emotionally Free: Letting Go of the Past to Live in the Moment . . . David Viscott

The Secret of Letting Go . . . Guy Finley

The Little Book of Letting Go: a revolutionary 30-day program to Cleanse your Mind, Lift your Spirit and Replenish your Soul . . . Hugh Prather

Healing the Hurts of Your Past: A Guide to Overcoming the Pain of Shame . . . F. Remy Diederich

Resilient Adults: Overcoming a Cruel Past . . . Gina O'Connell Higgins

Healing After Loss: Daily Meditations for Working Through Grief . . . Martha Whitmore Hickman

A New Normal: Learning to Live with Grief and Loss . . . Darlene Cross, MS, MFT

Forgiveness: A Bold Choice for a Peaceful Heart . . . Robin Casarjian

Forgiveness: How to Make Peace With Your Past and Get on With Your Life . . . Dr. Sidney B. Simon and Suzanne Simon


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© 2012 Sharon Good. All rights reserved.

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