Ever wondered why you tend to hold onto things? For example, say you do not trust people. Let’s say someone you were close to, betrayed you in a severe way, and you lost their trust. Perhaps, this carried over in your life, and that event burned you. So now you have issues trusting others in general because of the trust breaking event that happened months or years ago. You tell yourself and others, "I have trust issues, so I don't trust people."
Or maybe you are cautious with making new friends. Let's say someone criticized you, or talked behind your back, affecting your reputation in some way. This hurt you and it takes you awhile to become close to anyone new because of that event. So the story you tell yourself and others is, "I have a hard time making friends."
We all have stories we tell ourselves, stories from past events that affect the behaviors and habits we have today. And we hold onto these stories and events and repeat these over and over in our minds. So why do we hold onto these events? Why do we hold on to the past?
We hold onto things because we are emotional beings. It has to do with the way we link emotion to information. In other words, feeling certain emotions, gives us information. And we hold onto events that have stronger emotional ties and do not remember events that aren’t tied to any emotions. For example, 9/11/01. Most of us probably remember what we were doing that day when the attack on the World Trade Center happened. Can you say the same as for August, 27th, 2015? Probably not. Unless that's your birthday.
Your memory is not as detailed when it comes to a random day, but it’s very vivid on a date in the past that is tied to something very emotional. We hold onto the past, because we are addicted to the emotions and feelings linked to those events. And we are addicted to emotions as we are emotional beings.
We also hold onto the past because it gives us something we need. So I want you to think about that. Whatever you are holding onto, it’s giving you something you need. Be it positive or negative, it’s giving you something you need.
We have 6 basic human needs- this is universal- across all races, all cultures- the 6 needs in no specific order are Certainty, Uncertainty, Significance, Love and connection, Growth, and Contribution. Again, these are not in any order or chronological order. Many of us get stuck in the past because of our need for certainty. We all need to feel certain that we can avoid pain. Moving on from the past means stepping into the unknown future, which could mean pain. And we don’t want that.
We hold onto things, bc it serves us in some way, either good or bad, it serves a need. You may believe that the past protects you. You believe holding onto the painful experience protects from letting it happen again. Which is an irrational thought. Going back to the trust example I mentioned before, holding onto the past event that gave you the belief that people aren't trustworthy seemingly protects you from being hurt again. Because if you already chose to not trust someone, they can’t break your trust. Right? That seems rational in your mind, but it produces irrational behaviors because you aren’t able to connect closely with anyone due to your trust issues. And this limits you.
There is a powerful psychological payoff for holding onto the past. When you can blame external circumstances for your problems, you can then dump all your resentment and anger on others. The belief is: "You or that event are the cause of where I am today”. It's being the victim.
As mentioned before, We become addicted to emotions, as we know what to expect from them. An emotional addiction is when our body becomes dependent on our own chemical responses. This cycle changes the reward center of the brain. Even if the emotion makes us miserable, the rush of neurotransmitters (dopamine, serotonin) are a reward, as it links to meeting our needs.
In order to break emotional addiction you have to become conscious of your own patterns. I want to share 3 tips on how to let go of the past and break the emotional addiction to these events…
1. Clarify what you are holding onto. Maybe you are holding onto a failed relationship? Maybe it's A hurtful event or painful words from a friend or family member? Maybe it's a fight with someone you love? What are you holding onto and why are you holding on?
Then Ask yourself- what will I gain from letting this go? Who am I without this anymore?
Gaining self-awareness is key here. I help my clients dig deep into discovering what they are holding onto and what need its serving. Most of the time it's in our subconscious, so this can be hard to determine right now. But think about the questions above.
Clarifying why it's necessary to let go is important and sets the goal to release it. This gives you purpose. Your purpose will serve as your emotional drive when you feel like giving up. You are going to face setbacks and challenges, but if you have a strong enough reason and a purpose that drives you, you will stay focused and dedicated.
2. Acknowledge its time to move on and work with your subconscious mind here. First, you need to decide that you are ready to let go. Does holding on serve you anymore? Decide what you want to let go of from the past. By deliberating telling yourself it's time to let go, you are telling your subconscious mind you are ready to heal and move on. Do this daily and you are slowly reconditioning your mind that you are moving on. And the painful past experience begins to diminish. So by acknowledging a change and action you plan to take, you are in control and your subconscious mind is listening.
3. Identify the emotions linked to the past event. Think of the emotion you feel when you think of the event. Is it anger, sadness, pain, guilt, shame? Like I mentioned before, we become addicted to our emotions. We grow accustomed to certain emotions, even negative ones, and these impact us daily. We can live in negative emotional loops without even realizing it. I want you to consider the emotion that you hold onto, that is linked to a past event. Ask yourself, how does this emotion serve me? What need does the emotion meet? The 6 needs again are certainty, uncertainty, significance, love and connection, growth and contribution.
This can be difficult to pinpoint right now, but think about it or write this down somewhere. Every client I work with, we discuss the 6 needs. This helps my clients determine which needs drive their behaviors and habits, including holding onto the past.
To recap- Step 1, clarify what you are holding onto. Step 2. Acknowledge it's time and tell yourself and your subconscious that you are ready to let it go. Do this daily and you are reconditioning your mind. And step 3. Identify the emotion linked to this event, and the need it serves for you. All of this brings you self-awareness, which is so empowering. You can control this and have the power to let the past go, so you move on.
I hope you found this helpful today. If you would like some support with this process, I’m happy to work with you one on one or answer any questions you may have. Contact me below.