Letting Go of the Past: Breaking Out of Your Past and Into A New Future

A divorce can be a traumatizing event that effect many areas of your life. Read about John Gray's negative emotion tips in order to let go of the painful past and move into a better, brighter future.

By John Gray, Ph.D.
Updated: February 10, 2015
Mars and Venus: Advice from John Gray

One of the most painful losses you will ever experience is the end of a marriage. Because the immense pain of this traumatic event is usually coupled with guilt, blame, and numerous self-doubts, you may begin to question the successes you've had in other areas of your life.

For example, issues that cropped up during separation and divorce may have affected your work habits and your office demeanor. Or you may find that your children are blaming you for their hurt and anger. Then again, you may have given up on looking and feeling your best, because you are under the very wrong assumption that no one will ever again find you attractive, interesting, or desirable.

Well, you're wrong. The end of one relationship does not mean that you cannot or will not ever again find love, happiness, and fulfillment in another partnership. The pain you're now feeling is keeping you from looking at your future with a clear eye and an open heart -- but only as long as you let it.

In order to raise your head high above your doubts, you must first acknowledge this stupendous change in your life as an opportunity to take a new direction with your life -- yes, one that will certainly have challenges, slip-ups, and stop-gaps. But it will also present wonderful and valuable experiences that would not have happened if you had stayed in a relationship that was not satisfying to you or your former partner.

Of course, this is easier said than done. Right now, what you feel are negative emotions so deep that, like quicksand, you're enveloped in a numbness that has paralyzed you from acknowledging the many accomplishments in your life, let alone recognizing your potential for future successes -- including possible relationships.

Moving beyond your doubts will not be easy. But believe it or not, the negative emotions you are feeling right now are the catalyst you need to begin the healing process. The sooner you are willing and able to step out of your pain and onto a path of new discoveries that await you, the sooner this healing process can begin.

Tips on How to Let Go of the Past

There are four "Negative Emotions" you must heal in order to be free of the past: anger, sadness, fear, and sorrow.

Negative Emotion #1: Anger Is Holding You Back
When we are angry, it's because we are frustrated at the fact that we can't get what we truly want. When we go through the pain of a divorce, the worst thing we can do is to hold back permission -- to ourselves -- to be angry about our loss. Ask yourself: "Why am I angry?" If you think the answer is: "Because I want my partner's love," keep the desire, but create a new goal: "I want to be loved." This then breaks the bonds of anger, allowing you to consider other realistic possibilities for finding love again.

Negative Emotion #2:
Sadness Allows You to Accept Your Loss

Sadness comes from our recognition that something we want is not going to happen for us. This emotion usually follows anger, and moves us one step closer to opening our hearts and considering love again. When we move from anger to sadness, we surrender our resistance to the reality of our situationĂ·and we readjust our expectations accordingly. For example, perhaps you recognize that you will never again share the love of your former partner, but you also realize that there are others out there that may interest you, and that you are someone of interest. Sadness allows you to mourn the past, then move on and into the future.

Negative Emotion #3:
Fear of the Future -- and How You Can Move Beyond It.

While fear can immobilize us, it can also motivate us to explore the things we don't want to have happen to us. Most people wrongly assume that their fears are predictions of impending doom, but in fact, our fears are our resistance to the unknown. You face your fears by writing down the things that scare you: "I'm afraid of spending the rest of my life alone," or "I'm afraid that I am not desirable," or "I'm afraid that I'll make the same mistakes in my next relationship." By facing our fears one by one, we can come up with alternative actions to the fears that haunt us the most -- and move beyond them.

Negative Emotion #4:
Sorrow -- and Why It Does Not Have to Turn into Pity

Our sorrow is our ultimate resignation to the situation of separation and or divorce. By mourning this loss, we get the peace we so desperately need at this time in order to move on with the rest of our lives. At this time of mourning, we shouldn't hide from our friends: we need them to help us say goodbye to the past, and consider all the opportunities that we will be addressing in our new future. Their advice and counsel is not in any way pity: it is love and respect for you and your pain. It's their way of saying: "We're by your side, cheering you on, knowing that you will weather this storm and move on to better times." By accepting their love and support, you'll be strong enough to make the transition out of grief for your relationship and into hope for the next chapter of your life.
Our sorrow is our ultimate resignation to the situation of separation and or divorce. By mourning this loss, we get the peace we so desperately need at this time in order to move on with the rest of our lives. At this time of mourning, we shouldn't hide from our friends: we need them to help us say goodbye to the past, and consider all the opportunities that we will be addressing in our new future. Their advice and counsel is not in any way pity: it is love and respect for you and your pain. It's their way of saying: "We're by your side, cheering you on, knowing that you will weather this storm and move on to better times." By accepting their love and support, you'll be strong enough to make the transition out of grief for your relationship and into hope for the next chapter of your life.

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By John Gray, Ph.D.| May 27, 2008

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