There’s nothing like a serious life event to make you consider the trials and tribulations of your own meandering existence, but the problem with reflecting on the past is that it can often bring up memories about people, relationships or experiences that have hurt us.
Planning a wedding means that there’s an expectation to invite an extensive list of friends and family members, some of which you might not want to speak to. Or perhaps you’re inadvertently letting old relationship baggage cloud your new one. Starting a marriage is a great opportunity to let old stuff go and realign your energy to all the excitement of this new adventure you’re embarking on.
Saying that, letting go can be tough. It takes courage to face difficult emotions. Let me caveat this whole piece by saying that there’s a big difference between a hurt, resentment or even a grudge and trauma (big or little ‘t’, both valid) or even something like grief.
If something happened to you in the past that was so upsetting that it impacted your life in a big way and it continues to impact you, then no amount of peppy personal development advice is going to solve that. If there’s something that’s too painful to deal with on your own or a relationship which you don’t feel you can explore without serious stress and overwhelm, then please reach out and seek professional help. There are heaps of things which can’t be solved in a list of advice from a magazine. If you’re in the UK, the counselling directory is a good place to start.
For more manageable heartaches and woes, be it about exes, family members or friends, here’s some first steps to helping you untangle yourself from any negative emotions which might be coming up from your past.
The first step is to acknowledge what you’re stuck on and think about why you would like to move on. Think about what moving on looks like for you. Do you want to have a relationship with that person again? Or do you simply want to stop feeling angry or hurt? Do you want to forgive and forget?
When we’re stuck in the past about something it takes a lot of emotional currency from our present. In Sarah Knight’s book The Life Changing Magic of Not Giving a F***, she rightly says that we only have so many fucks to give per day i.e., we only have so much time and energy each day so we need to be mindful of where we’re putting our attention.
If you’re totally hung up on something in the past, you’re missing your present hunny!
When it comes to letting go, a lot of it comes down to forgiveness. Now before you tell me that you could never, ever forgive your two-timing ex for cheating on you and giving you trust issues, or your best friend for slagging you off or your mum for her shitty parenting… hear me out.
When we can choose to forgive someone else, it isn’t really for them, it’s for us – it’s the way to step into a more peaceful state of mind i.e., taking one of our precious fucks back for something more important, like building your dream life with your cutie. Think of this quote from Buddha, “Holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.”
Why is forgiveness so hard to do? One reason is that holding onto things can feel comforting to our brains. It lets us justify our past decisions and continue a feeling of familiarity, something our brains love. Generally, our brains hate change and will hold onto things, even when they’re not productive or useful anymore, simply because letting go can feel scary.
You get to choose whether your narrative is forward-looking and empowering or resentful, bitter, stuck in the past and angry. You get to write your own story.
Learning to forgive and let go means taking back your power. It’s a way of reclaiming your life from any unhelpful emotions likely clouding your present experience. For example, past hurts can show up as bitterness, resentment, and mistrustfulness. Do you want to orientate yourself to these traits? Probably not, right?! To show up as our best selves, to be the author of our life, we need to learn to let go.
Live in the present
Where to start… staying mindful of the present moment is a great trick to helping you focus on your current (badass) self. We don’t experience life; we experience our perception of life which is filtered through our minds. The more time we can spend consciously learning to examine our thoughts, and noticing when we’re mind-wandering, the happier we can be. The future is built in our imagination and the past is just a memory (which can be built on falsehoods and stories). The only true thing we have is the present moment. Read The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle for more truth bombs on this.
It’s not that mind wandering is an entirely bad thing. It’s how we access our imagination and visualise our dream weddings! It’s also how we’re able to reminisce about something beautiful that happened, like your proposal story. It’s an incredible brain feat. However, as humans, another ‘mental quirk’ is that we are drawn to the negatives, a hangover of a survival instinct. Research has proven that often, mind wandering leads to negative thinking about the past or catastrophising about the future e.g., an argument from four years ago or possible rain on your wedding day. This is an unhelpful habit because the past is done, and you cannot predict the future. The only thing you have complete control over is your attention in the present – this thing happening right now.
You can only change yourself
So much pain in life is caused by thinking you can control the way other people feel and act. We also have the habit of underestimating how our behaviour or decisions may have impacted a situation. Taking responsibility for our place in things can be difficult and confronting, but it can be very helpful in the letting-go process. Moving on means seeing the truth of a situation and acknowledging your mistakes. For example, can you see that maybe there was a lack of boundaries on your part, or a need for validation, the desire to rescue the person and wanting to fix them? Assess how you may have played a role and you might even learn something about yourself!
You can’t make your mum a better parent in your childhood, but you can realise that your past does not have to impact your future (hello therapy, I love you). You can learn to manage the difficulties you’ve experienced more skilfully, whatever it was about, so they don’t continue to impact you now and in the future. There’s a lesson in everything. We all have the ability to turn negatives into positives, setbacks into opportunities, failures into insights.
Remember, every day is a chance to start over
Cheesy AF as it sounds, every day is a chance to start over. From the minute we wake up, we make choices. Learning how to let go of the past means breaking our mental patterns, creating new habits, and consciously working on creating the life you desire. Decide today to stop dwelling on the past and focus on the future. Find the ways to process and let go which work for you.
DO write a letter (and do or don’t send it), have an imaginary conversation with the person who hurt you, go to therapy, get some energy work done if that’s your jam, follow a 12-step recovery protocol and reach out to people you’ve hurt (as long as it won’t cause more hurt to them), take a mindfulness course, read some self-help books on forgiveness.
DON’T put this baggage on your current relationship, talk on repeat about something or someone who’s hurt you and not do anything about it, think that healing is out of your reach or that the beliefs you hold are set in stone. They’re not. Our brains are very malleable. It just takes work to change your thoughts.
Planning a wedding is an exciting but emotional time so it’s super normal for ‘stuff’ to come up about our pasts. The great thing about this? It can provide an opportunity for healing, for moving forward and giving you the feeling of starting afresh with a clean slate. I say grab that opportunity and run with it! You only have so many fucks to give. Use them wisely.
And finally, a personal letting go from me:
I’ve been writing for Rock n Roll Bride since 2018 (!) and it’s with a heavy heart that I’ve decided to pass the writing baton on to someone else so I can focus on other projects. Thanks for reading my features all this time. Never forget that you do not need to lose weight or change your body to be worthy in this life. You are a universe of magic and awesomeness. It is society that needs to change, not your body. Wishing you the most beautiful weddings and long and happy marriages. Stay in touch. Hx
ABOUT HARRI ROSE
Harri Rose is a body acceptance coach, writer and Co-Director at Anti Diet Riot Club. Her first book ‘You Are Enough’ is out now (Octopus Publishing). She is currently studying for an MA in Food Anthropology. Get your free introduction to her book at harrirose.com/signup or say hi on Instagram @harri_rose_
This article originally appeared in issue 46 of Rock n Roll Bride magazine. You can purchase the latest copy here, or why not subscribe to never miss an issue?
- Photography: Alex Healy Photo
- Makeup: Rugg Makeup
- Flowers: East Coast Stems