We have all gone through some kind of hurtful or painful experience. Some people have had to endure more of them and others have had fewer but intensely painful ones. No one can claim to fully understand another person’s pain but the one thing we agree on is that it is important to let go of it all.
It can be frustrating because just knowing that you need to let go of all the hurt and anger inside of you doesn’t do the magic. It can be extremely difficult to do even when you want to.
A 6-step strategy to help you let go of hurt and anger
Acknowledge your pain
Acknowledgement of the existence of your pain is the first step towards addressing it. If you are angry at someone, allow yourself to say ‘Yes, I am angry at her.’ Try not to resist your feelings or push them away. The idea is to work with the pain and not against it. Make it the subject of a conversation with yourself.
This is a tool to control your thoughts and feelings. When you agree with them and accept them, the battle between you and them now comes to an end. Now that you are on the same side, they lose their power over you.
Express your pain
Some people believe in bottling up their pain in the hope that it will just fade away. It rarely works. Find a way to express exactly what it is you are feeling. You could reach out to a trustworthy friend who is willing to listen. Tell them exactly what you are feeling and let them give you their thoughts on the matter. Quite often a good friend will be able to give you insights you didn’t have or reframe the situation so that you see it in a way you hadn’t seen it before. Even if they don’t do all that, it always feels good to vent. Talking is therapeutic.
Another alternative is to write. Take time to write down your thoughts and feelings in a journal. Journaling is a very effective way of processing your thoughts and you are likely to come up with new insights after writing everything down.
Some people prefer to use art. Draw or paint as a method of self-expression. Draw a picture which represents what you are feeling.
Make a decision to let it go
This is the most difficult but most crucial part of the entire process. You have to realize that pain and hurt will never just go away on its own. You have to make a conscious decision to shake it off and act on that decision. This is by no means an easy step to take but it comes from a realization that you actually have a choice to let go of the pain or continue holding on to it.
You can choose to stop reliving past hurts, to stop replaying past experiences in your mind every time you think of the person involved. It boils down to you and the decision you make. You have been carrying a heavy load around for a long time. Do you want to keep carrying it or place it on the ground and walk away?
Many people admit that this realization is both liberating and annoying. Liberating because they suddenly realize that they have a choice, and annoying because they realize that they need not have held on to their pain for so long.
Quit blaming others
Letting go is the most important step. Refusing to blame other people for your continued hurt is perhaps the second most important one. Many people believe that they continue to go through so much pain and hurt after a painful experience because of the person who caused it. I beg to differ. If for instance your girlfriend said something which hurt you deeply, it is true that she caused you hurt. However, it is you who chooses to carry it along for as long as you have, not her.
Look at it this way, continuing to carry the hurt and anger for weeks, months or even years deprives you of happiness today. We are all responsible for our own happiness. Allowing her to rob you of yours puts way too much power in her hands. You only have yourself to blame for putting that much power in the hands of someone else. You are essentially allowing them to hold you at ransom.
You may not be able to forget another person’s hurtful actions but you can forgive. Sometimes the pain is so intense and the hurt so deep that it seems impossible to ever forgive them but it can be done. Go ahead and do it.
Forgiving means letting go of the anger you feel and allowing yourself to move forward without the load it creates. Here is the secret: making the decision to forgive another person is actually more beneficial to you than it is to them. Do it for your own happiness and peace of mind. In many instances, the decision to forgive when it doesn’t seem to make any sense, is a selfish (self-benefitting) action on the part of the aggrieved party. It is the only way to relieve themselves of the load they are carrying.
An apology may or may not be forthcoming. Don’t forget that the person who hurt you may not care to apologize for their actions. Perhaps she is just not sorry at all. This should not be a condition to your forgiveness. Make the decision to forgive whether or not the other person apologizes or not.
Focus on the present… and the future
You have let it go, taken responsibility for your own happiness and forgiven everyone involved. Now it is time to focus on the here and now. Stop reliving painful experiences. Stop telling yourself the same old sob story where you (the protagonist) is the victim of the other person’s terrible words and actions. That is all in the past and there is nothing much you can do to change it. You can however, make today the first day of the rest of your life.
The mind, in this context is like a physical space which can get filled up. If it is full of positive thoughts of the future there will be no room for the sad, negative stories from the past.
Focusing on the future has to do with channeling your mental and physical energy on your goals for tomorrow. Set your goals and start doing everything you can to achieve them.
Positive mantra: When negative thoughts try to creep into your mind, as they will inevitably do every now and then, get into the habit of talking to yourself. What you say to yourself can either welcome the negative thoughts to set up camp in your mind or send them scampering back where they came from.
Clinical psychologist Carla Manly recommends coming up with a positive, encouraging mantra which injects new energy into you every time you say it. Instead of saying to yourself ‘I can’t believe she did this to me’, say to yourself ‘I am stronger than this, I can and I will get through it and come out better than I was before.’
Letting go of hurt and anger is by no means an easy process. That doesn’t mean that you can’t do it. You can. The bottom line is that hurt and anger does not hold on to you, it is you who holds on to it. The second you make the decision to let it go, it takes the load off you.
It all has to do with taking control of your thoughts and subsequently, your happiness. When someone does something to hurt you, your initial feelings of anger are natural and unavoidable. They are as a result of chemical reactions in your brain. However, those chemicals last no more than 10 seconds. Whatever you choose to think or do after that is well within your power.