“We are often haunted by important relationships from the past that influence us unconsciously in the present. As we work them through, they go from haunting us to becoming simply part of our history.”
~ Norman Doidge, The Brain That Changes Itself: Stories of Personal Triumph from the Frontiers of Brain Science
Why is it that some things are so hard to let go? I’m not talking about that happy reminiscing we all indulge in from time to time, where we look back on relationships or incidents from our past with a fondness or a good humour. I’m referring instead to those things that we can’t seem to move on from – where remembering them and recounting them re-opens old wounds, and causes pain almost as fresh as the day we were first hurt.
One of the precious privileges I have as a psychic is bearing witness to the pain many people suffer around their relationships. Even people who seem to have the most ‘together’ lives often open up and reveal how much they still hurt over relationships with family and others that they love or have loved deeply.
Old ladies in their nineties still worrying about fallings-out with their sisters when they were mere teenagers, old men are still bowed and shamed by incidents with their fathers or grandfathers. People yearn and ache for lost loves and relationships that ended badly. We grieve mistakes and bad choices, and crucify ourselves for past decisions. We carry these hurts with us though life. Why? They are all unresolved issues.
If you fight and then make up, or discuss things and decide to part ways, that’s a resolution. When we have resolution and closure – even if it’s painful – something inside us lets go and we find ourselves able to eventually move on.
An unresolved issue is any situation where we didn’t feel heard or loved or supported or understood. Where we never got to a conclusion or a resolution.
Sometimes we are fortunate enough to be able to find resolution years after a situation has occurred. A friend’s father had a difficult upbringing. His own father had been extremely hard on his children, and in some cases that hardness had actually been cruel. My friend’s dad had been dogged by this his whole adult life. As his father became ill and required care, my friend’s Dad, by now a man in his fifties, finally decided to speak to his father. The older man had no idea that his actions had so hurt his son and other children. He thought he’d been being a good father by ‘toughening up his children’ so that they wouldn’t suffer in life the way that he had. The old man apologised unreservedly. It led to a great healing and a new closeness in the relationship between father and son, and my friend’s dad felt as if a weight had finally been lifted from his shoulders.
Occasionally, after time has passed, we are lucky enough to be able to have that conversation, and finally feel heard and acknowledged.
Another friend found the courage to speak to an older sibling about something that had divided their relationship as teenagers and stopped them speaking with one another. They are now in their sixties. It didn’t go as my friend had hoped. They talked, but there was no apology, no new closeness, no opportunity for a mended relationship. Still, it gave my friend closure. She has stopped wondering if the relationship can be salvaged. She has mourned it and let it go.
It is worth attempting resolution, or seeking closure. Even when the outcome is not what you may have hoped, it can allow you to let go of the thing you have carried around inside you for so long.
Sometimes we’re able to have that conversation.
But when we can’t, there are still options.
If the person is alive but unwilling, if they are no longer able to be found, or if they have passed over, we can hold the conversation in our head instead. We can write them a letter we never send. We can still get it all off our chest.
Sometimes WE are the person we have the issue with. Well, we’ll still need to have that dialogue, even if it’s with ourselves.
Good therapists can help here. Hanging onto this painful stuff buried deep within is never good for us, and can lead to anxiety issues, depression and even post-traumatic stress.
Sometimes what is most needed is simply to accept the other person and their behaviour; to understand that they are who they are, that they won’t change, and that expecting them to be different will always cause disappointment and hurt for you.
Finding resolution and letting go of old hurts is about energetically releasing ourselves from the past. Sure, we may end up with a scar, but a scar can’t be reopened like a wound can. We may have a reminder, but we can find ways to accept, to forgive, to put it behind us, to move on.
Most importantly, when we heal old hurts, we gather all of the emotion and energy that we were placing on that person or situation and it becomes available for us to use in new ways. We can put it towards creative projects, new love, business, health and well-being. Tremendous energy can be wasted by being caught up in the past. So much so that it prevents us from living in the present or moving into the future in any satisfying way.
Healing old hurts is possible, and is one of the most worthwhile things you’ll ever do.
* Other posts you may find helpful around this topic are:
Working with the energy of forgiveness (this one also has a guided meditation)