Ten Tips on How to Complete the Past

We’ve all been there… lying awake at night, tossing and turning, replaying a scene in our head about some confrontation, argument or misunderstanding. Or even more distressing, we carry around a hurt or offense for years, letting it slowly eat away at our self-confidence, trust and outlook on life and relationships.

Learning to let go of the feelings associated with past situations— especially if some aspect of the situation is still present in your life— takes time and patience, and is sometimes difficult to do alone.

The ten suggestions outlined here are effective approaches to resolving emotional turmoil harbored about past events (which can manifest in the body as physical illness, as we discussed in a previous article). These can be worked on alone or with the support of an integrative health coach.  

  1. Rethink the situation.  What did you learn as a result of the situation?  How did you grow as a result?  Was there a hidden gift in going through the experience?  Repeat until you can feel gratitude toward the situation and the other person.
  2. Get a complete understanding. Look at the other’s motivations.  You do not have to approve or agree.  Simply understand.  Answer the following questions at length in your journal.  What might have made his/her actions inevitable?  Did he/she have a true choice? What would have had to be different in order for his/her actions to be different?
  3. Write letters to the person you feel resentment towards, feel hurt about, or are still attached to.  Say everything you want to say and write as many letters as necessary to feel complete, each time going deeper inside to express your full emotions.  You don’t need to send the letters, but rather do something with them that signifies completion.  Bury them, burn them, flush them.
  4. Know how you contributed. Owning some part of it helps you to realize that you have some power in the situation. This allows you to be empowered to prevent a similar situation happening in the future.
  5. Vent and vent some more, but don’t stay stuck in it. Tell your story to a trusted friend or advisor who does not judge what you say, gives no advice, and makes no comments to dispute your feelings.
  6. Talk to the person with whom you have the incomplete/unresolved situation if they are still in physical form.  Do this only if you are quite sure they will be able to listen to you in the same way as in #5.  This can be scary as we are never given a guarantee that they will truly listen.
  7. Imagine talking to the person, especially if the person has transitioned.  Give the conversation as much time and undivided attention as you would give a real conversation.  Learn to feel comfortable doing this through practice.  It will set you free!
  8. Roleplay your situation.  Ask a trusted friend to role play the incomplete situation with you and use the role play experience to act out how you wish you had responded and been responded to.  If you don’t have a trusted friend, you can use the empty chair technique.
  9. Talk to the spirit of the person. Sometimes our relationships go so wrong, so much hurt is created, that is difficult to imagine the person giving us the understanding we need to become complete. In this case, talk to the spirit of the person, attentively listening while you say everything you need to say. Even when the person may not be able to hear you, their spirit always will.
  10. Repair and rebuild.  Actively repair the damage or loss. If something of yours was taken, replace it with an item just as good or better.  If you were emotionally hurt, give yourself the kind of support, acknowledgment, understanding and love you wanted from the person. Yes, you can do that!

If you are interested in integrative approaches to mental health and well-being, consider enrollment in our IHC program.

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Blog Post written by:

Dr. Nickerson's professional experience as a psychologist and personal passion for developing the mind-body-spirit connection have fueled her success and devotion to training individuals and organizations to foster whole wellness.

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