In order to maintain a strong foundation that supports your progress toward a well life, there are all sorts of things you can do to fortify yourself. But all the fortification in the world can be thwarted by the ways in which you simultaneously undermine that foundation.
You can only get so far before unresolved conflicts, withheld forgiveness, and limiting beliefs from your past impede your progress. Therefore, you’ve got to get really real about your baggage and learning to let go in order to achieve the well life (a full, balanced, happy, and gratifying life). Are you carrying around nagging broken agreements, dysfunctional relationships, grudges, or limiting stories? It can be an uncomfortable process to clean this clutter up by letting go of the past, but chances are, you’re already living with a certain burden of discomfort because of not having dealt with or released these issues.
Loose ends from your past can undermine you. It’s important to let go of anger and other negative emotions. Unless you have learned to let go, one thing that may happen when you prepare to go for something big (whether it be a new relationship, a career change, or a cross-country move) is that your mind quickly runs through all your baggage — unresolved issues, past traumas, mistakes, losses — and tells you this is a bad idea.
Rather than hating your mind for this, it’s important to remember that you programmed this mind. You started out as a baby with a clean mental slate, and little by little you trained your mind to look out for things that might threaten your survival or happiness. That’s how your mind is built to work. It just happens that most minds are overly eager to do this job. The more intense the bad experiences of your past, the deeper the groove they cut in your mental record and the more important it is to take letting go of the past seriously.
Figure Out What’s Holding You Back
The key to identifying and letting go of the past incidents that get priority cleanup status is that when you bring them to mind and then check in with your body, you don’t feel altogether light and clean. Instead, you might feel heavy, tight, agitated, or constricted. Or a negative emotion might come up, such as guilt, fear, shame, anger, regret, sadness, or grief.
It’s possible that something you did that was objectively bad doesn’t actually provoke an especially strong physical or emotional response when you focus on it. In such cases, it’s important to remember that the objective “sin rating” of an event is less significant than how much of a hook it has in you. On the other hand, you might have accidentally thrown away your child’s first finger-painting and experience a tremendous feeling of guilt when you think about it — this would be something worth addressing.
The Power of Forgiveness
Think of letting go of your past hostages as a mental cleanse before you start building your new life. There’s so much talk in the natural health world about ways to cleanse our bodies, but so little about how to cleanse our minds. The most powerful mechanism for mental cleansing is forgiveness
Recognize that most people are just confused children (or at least we can be when we’re emotional). We’re still looking to get our needs met, still wanting everyone’s approval, still perhaps wanting to cause hurt when we get hurt. So when we’re upset, we are often operating from a perspective that’s not much different than it was when we were six years old. Learning to let go involves involves acknowledging this perspective and embodying empathy.
In the process of stumbling through life, we often cause pain for others. If you’ve been on the receiving end, it may be worth considering that the perpetrators of the hurt were acting out of confusion: not really understanding that they could get their needs met without hurting someone else, not really understanding the impact of their actions, not really conscious of the love that’s always available to them, and not really understanding the nature of their connectedness to you. This may not make their actions okay for you, but hopefully it makes forgiveness an option. With this understanding, letting go of anger and moving on from the past is a lot easier.
If it’s your intention to withhold forgiveness of someone (possibly yourself) for the rest of your life, maybe this qualifies as “cruel and unusual.” It’s a uniquely human thing to hold a grudge and never let it go. Ask yourself: How long will I hold on to this before it will be enough? Or, how much longer am I going to pollute myself with this? According to this Psychology Today article, hypnotherapy may be of help in this process of letting go.
If you’re like nearly all other humans, to some degree you blame yourself for everything about your life that isn’t the way you think it should be, which makes letting go of the past difficult. You may not be aware of it, and you may also be blaming someone else, but chances are when things aren’t perfect, your mind has an explanation that amounts to: there’s something wrong with me, or, perhaps more specifically, my body is wrong, my mind is wrong, I’m making the wrong choices, I messed up my life, etc.
Self-limiting beliefs are like sandbags weighing down your hot air balloon. And when you forgive in the process of learning to let go, it’s like cutting the strings. When you start forgiving habitually, not only do you begin to experience a lightness and freedom that for many of us has been absent for decades, but you also begin to recognize just how powerful you are. Although letting go and moving on takes work, it has it’s advantages!
Hypnosis as a Solution
Hypnosis is a therapeutic technique in which clinicians make suggestions to individuals who have undergone a procedure designed to relax them and focus their minds. Although in the past hypnosis has been considered controversial by some, the American Psychological Association says that:
“Most clinicians now agree it can be a powerful, effective therapeutic technique for a wide range of conditions, including pain, anxiety, panic attacks and mood disorders. Hypnosis can also help people change their habits, such as quitting smoking.”
As with mindfulness meditation, hypnosis harnesses the brain’s natural abilities to regulate the body and control the random thoughts that ricochet through our minds. But, where meditation can take weeks or months of practice before it helps patients, with hypnosis, the relief is typically a lot quicker and more dramatic. Hypnosis reduces our awareness of what’s going on around us, even as it increases our attention and openness to new ideas. The brain’s command center lets its guard down, allowing the therapist’s suggestions to embed themselves into the parts of our grey matter that regulate our thoughts, perceptions and physiology.
Hypnosis therapy can be performed in an office visit at a center that specializes in hypnotherapy. For those unable to attend face-to-face consultations there are options to download mp3’s developed by a hypnotherapist. Some therapists will even create personalized mp3s based on the specific issue or issues of an individual, and then that person can listen to the custom audio file on their own time, as often as desired.
Even though hypnotherapy isn’t as widely known as psychotherapy and medication for treating anxiety, researchers and scientists have been studying the effects it can have on mental health conditions such as anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and depression for several years. In one 2017 study, researchers scanned the brains of people while they were undergoing guided hypnosis sessions. They found that a hypnotized brain experiences changes in the brain that give a person focused attention, greater physical and emotional control and less self-consciousness.