11 Powerful Tips to Let Go of Past Hurts & Move Forward

You know you need to let go of past hurts. 

We all have a past. Even the best of us out there have issues stemming from our past. Childhood abuse or neglect. Maybe a parent with addiction issues.

All of these and more can cause damage to our present and our future. Past issues can sabotage relationships.

It can lead us to addiction or other destructive behaviors.

Unresolved childhood issues can derail careers and separate families. In order to survive and thrive, we have to let go of past hurts!

But how to let go of the past and move forward?  Can we move forward despite immense neglect, trauma or abuse? How do we allow ourselves to not be defined by our past; to get over the pain?

In this post, we’re going to identify and explore some of the things that can create these issues. But more importantly we’re going to look and simple and actionable ways to learn how to let go of the past and move forward.

We may never forget our past but we don’t have to let it control our future.

My own dark and violent past

For me, my past includes a step-father who was an alcoholic.

I never doubted he loved me, but he had a hard time showing it.  He had an even harder time showing it to my mother who eventually left him after he knocked her teeth out.

Many a night was spent crawling out my bedroom window to run away into the nearby woods to escape him on a drunken rampage.

I don’t want to disparage his memory though. Despite those things, he means a lot to me and unfortunately has been gone a long time.

He didn’t drink every night. In fact, he rarely drank.

But when he did, he couldn’t stop.  In those days, I’m not sure DUI was even a thing.  I remember the nights when the police brought him home laughing about how drunk he was.

I don’t think he ever spent a night in jail or was otherwise held accountable. To say that his behavior affected me is a vast understatement.

I’ve definitely had to learn how to let go of the past and move forward.

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Many of us struggle to let go of the past!

My past affects my view on alcohol and those who drink (although I have consumed alcohol in moderation for most of my adult life).  It has also had a huge impact on my views about violence and violence against women in particular.

Not that having that negative view of spousal abuse is a bad thing.  But for me, it’s something I’m hypersensitive to; one of the rare things that make me see red.

The other way I wrestled to let go of past hurts was in recognizing how my childhood impacted my relationships

After all, my mother and father divorced when I was 6 months old.  By the time I was 2, my mom had remarried and we moved over 1000 miles from my dad who was just coming to terms with being a gay father.

Then by age 10, we left and moved 1000 miles away from my step-dad; the man I called father.  In addition, I changed schools every 2 years up until high school, so I was also constantly changing friends.

In brief, almost everyone of importance in my life left me at some point.

I was subconsciously learning to fear being left. But I also was learning to sometimes leave before the other had a chance to leave me; a preemptive strike!

This innate fear has affected every romantic relationship I’ve ever had. So learning how to let go of the past and move forward was crucial.

Why we still struggle to let go of past hurts

As much work as I have done, the past still affects me and my actions in the present.

I’ve been to therapists many times.  I think therapy under the right provider can be an amazing and transformative thing.

Over the years, I’ve probably seen at least 4 different therapists a number of times.

A great therapist doesn’t tell you what to think or feel.

Often they just provide a safe place for you to express your feelings. And they may offer detailed interpretations of the feelings you’re describing.  That interpretation is often where the gold is.

After all, when we are in the midst of feeling some challenging feelings, stopping and thinking logically about what we’re feeling does not come easily.

Being able to have someone else play back their interpretation of what you just said can be truly enlightening. In fact, it is often only when we hear other’s interpretations of our thoughts that we truly begin to understand our feelings.

The therapist helps because they are a neutral party who doesn’t have a stake in the situation or the outcome of those feelings.

Wondering if you should Use Free Counseling? Check out that amazing post to learn more.

Refuse to be defined by your past!

I’m fond of saying that awareness (with any issue or addiction) is half the battle.

Once we identify an issue we’re well on our way to learning how to let go of the past and move forward.  But conquering an issue doesn’t mean it goes away never to be felt again.

Conquering simply means we control it rather than the other way around.

Lots of things can trigger an old feeling or issue. The difference conquering makes, however, is that we can recognize when those feelings come up.  We understand why we are feeling what we are feeling.  We can make a conscious choice to NOT let those feelings control us or our actions and reactions.

In addition to therapy, I’ve also read a great many so-called self-help books and listened to podcasts and videos. The world is full of brilliant people and I love to listen to great thought leaders expound on ways of bettering oneself.

Here’s one worth checking out!

let go of past hurts middle class dad Matt Morris book

I refuse to be defined by my past because I don’t want to be limited.  I don’t want some distant memory telling me how to feel!  I’m too stubborn to be trapped by the past.

I would rather work and sweat, screw up and try again than simply wallow in my own self-pity thinking “this is as good as it gets” or “that’s just how it is”.

There may always be people, places or things that trigger feelings.  But do you want to allow those to control you? The choice is ALWAYS yours!

Finding that inner motivation is key to let go of the past!

How to move forward from past issues

As I mentioned above, the first step towards healing is acknowledging an issue.

An alcoholic who says to themselves “I have a problem with alcohol” is now 50% of the way towards not being defined by that issue.

I first came to terms with my past many years ago.

However, its only been in recent years that I began to realize the impact of my childhood on my romantic relationships that I described above. In fact, it took my wife and I almost breaking up in 2013 before I really began to understand my past and how it was affecting my present and future.

I go into greater detail on that in a well-received post about infidelity and why saving a marriage in the aftermath is so important.

One misnomer out there is that we somehow eventually get to a place where we check “done”.  I don’t care what you’re referring to; you’re never done.  There is always more to learn.  You can always grow more.

If you stay observant and present you will ALWAYS be better in every way a year from now than you were before

Thus, learning to let go of past hurts and learning how to let go of the past and move forward is not something you just do.

It is something you will always be aware of and focus on.

The impact will diminish over time as you do the work, but your past doesn’t go away.  Most importantly though, you get to a place where your past doesn’t control you.  You CAN refuse to be defined by it.

Where I’m at now is I’m very acutely aware of my past.  I’m aware of my tendencies and insecurities. I even addressed my insecurities in a previous post about how a Clingy Guy can get over being insecure.

If you struggle with relationship insecurities or neediness, check it out my post if you haven’t already

Why do we struggle to let go of past hurts?

In short, fear is what holds us back.  Facing our past is often painful.  It’s far easier to push those feelings down and pretend that they aren’t there.

Many will medicate those feelings away with drugs, alcohol or prescription drugs. Other folks may lose themselves in self-destructive sexual behavior trying to make those feelings go away.

For some, they may simply become workaholics and work crazy hours to avoid dealing with those feelings; pushing away their families in the process. Many will engage at different levels in ALL of those behaviors.

I can tell you from personal experience and in observing others that those things don’t work; at least not in the long term.  They don’t bring happiness or make the pain go away.

Let Go Of Past Hurts – How To Get Over The Past In Minutes

While it can work in the short term to self-medicate the pain and pretend it doesn’t exist, what are you really gaining?

How is it helping?  It’s like trying to patch a hole in your car’s gas tank with a piece of duct tape; a temporary fix at best.  One that may lead to worse things down the road than if you just fixed it now the right way.

Aren’t you worth being the best you can be and learning to let go of past hurts?

The answer to that question is, of course, yes.  You are worth it.  You deserve to move forward.  Your family deserves for you to move forward.

You can learn to let go of past hurts. 

I have seen it and I have done it (and continue to work on it).

What are my . . .

11 Powerful Tips to Let Go of Past Hurts & Move Forward?

let go of past hurts middle class dad blue bridge

1. Face your past

Acknowledge the issue(s) you haven’t wanted to face. What was the event or events that created the trauma?

2. Identify the issues

How are those issues from your past affecting your behavior in the present?

3. Understand the issues

Why are they creating the destructive behavior? How are your actions now tied to those of your childhood? Are you recreating the destructive habits of a parent or going 180 degrees in the other direction?

4. Visualize how you would like to behave

If you could wave a magic wand and change your situation, what would your world look like? How would your relationships function and how would you act?

5. Seek professional help;

Therapy, religion, meditation, yoga or other mindful physical practices can all be GREAT things in reshaping how you see yourself and the world. Dive in deeper and see if therapy is right for you at BetterHelp.

6. Do your best to avoid the destructive behaviors during your healing

Remove yourself from places, people and things that are preventing you from moving forward, changing friends or cutting off family members if need be to avoid the temptation

7. Confront people from your past if you must

But forgive and move on (leaving them in the past if they continue to be a destructive force)

8. Engage in a daily focus of moving forward

Slow progress is still progress. Don’t beat yourself up for not making as big a step as you wanted to. Move forward slowly, taking baby steps and being kind to yourself and others.

9. Forgive yourself

Forgive yourself if you take a step back. We are all human beings and all fallible.  We all make mistakes. There is no shame in making mistakes, only in repeating them or not learning from them.

10. Take responsibility

If your taking a step back hurts another take responsibility and ownership of it 100%.

11. Be Patient

Understand that healing will take time and patience is your friend. You will get to a better place but it may not happen overnight and that’s OK.

Have you learned how to let go of past hurts and move forward?

In this post, we dove deep into the past.

We looked at how the past can affect our present and our future. Specifically though, we looked at how we can let go of past hurts and find ways to move forward.

We may never forget the past, but we don’t have to be controlled by it.

What do you struggle with?  Do you find yourself unable to let go of past hurts?

Feel free to comment here or email me with any questions as I am here to help!

If you like this post, please consider sharing on Facebook because if it helped you, it just might help someone else!

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Photo credits (that aren’t mine):
Old picture in new view – https://www.flickr.com/photos/pnglife/
Colorful bridge – https://www.flickr.com/photos/dexxus/

Jeff Campbell

Jeff Campbell is a husband, father, martial artist, budget-master, Disney-addict, musician, and recovering foodie having spent over 2 decades as a leader for Whole Foods Market. Click to learn more about me

2 thoughts on “11 Powerful Tips to Let Go of Past Hurts & Move Forward

  1. I struggle to let go of the past when it becomes a pattern in my romantic relationship. My ex and I have broken up recently, and as much as he told me to let it go. It was hard when he kept doing the same thing. For example: he breaks our conversation to actively search for a co worker that passed us by 5 minutes ago, and stares at her butt. And turns to me and greets me. A month passes by and he does it again. How are you to let go if the behavior is reoccurring?

    1. Hi Lynn

      Thanks for taking the time to comment. If you and your ex work together then, unfortunately, it’s not really in the past yet. Also if he’s actively eyeing other women while in conversation with you, that’s just flat out rude, whether you’re together or not. He may even be doing it intentionally to get a rise out of you, or maybe to make you jealous, like some sort of power manipulation.

      If moving to another job isn’t an option, then I would suggest setting clear boundaries with him. At the very least I would stop talking to him. I wouldn’t be rude, but I would just let him know you need some space & distance in order to move forward and that from here on out, you don’t want to engage in conversation unless it directly and exclusively relates to work.

      Once you’ve done that, were he to continue to approach you about personal matters, then I would complain to HR and that “repeated and unwanted behavior” is the definition of harassment and they are legally obligated to step in.

      If he has to talk with you about work matters and he does this while having work-related discussions then when it happens I would stop him and let him know you find it inappropriate to be staring at other women while in discussion with you and if it continues, I would again go to HR.

      If he happens to be the boss, then I would most certainly look for another job and take that at the nearest opportunity. Otherwise, it could be very hard to heal.

      I hope that helps and would love to hear a follow-up.



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