Reliving our past, trying to come up with all of the ways and possible outcomes that we should have done differently is a painful experience. When we go through a challenge like a divorce where we wish that things were different, it's natural for us to look at the past and try to pinpoint those moments where we should have acted differently - and if we had, then maybe all of this pain and suffering could have been avoided.
Listen in as I walk you through my own past experience that was challenging for me to let go of, where I was holding a lot of blame for myself and wishing that I had done everything different so a different outcome could have happened. I'll teach you the steps to being able to let go of your past story, the way I was able to let go of mine, and move into the process of leaving your past where it belongs so that you can finally stop spinning in it, stop living in suffering and move forward in your life.
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There have been many times in my life when I've been stuck in the past, wishing that I would have just done something different, showed up in some way, made a different choice so that things would be different in my life. Every time I do this, I create so much pain and suffering for myself and I become completely consumed by my thoughts. I have learned how to successfully let go of my past story and stop creating so much suffering and spinning for myself and I can teach you how to do this too. Let's talk about how to make that happen for you. Schedule your free consult by clicking here.
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Full Episode Transcript:
I’m your host, Karin Nelson and you’re listening to Becoming You Again, episode number 76.
Welcome to becoming You Again. The podcast to help you with your mental and emotional wellbeing during and after divorce. This is where you learn to overcome the trauma of your divorce by reconnecting with yourself, creating lasting emotional resilience and living a truly independent life so your life will be even better than when you were married. I’m your host Karin Nelson.
Hello. Welcome back. I hope you all had a very nice Thanksgiving if you are here in America. Our Thanksgiving was actually really nice. We had all of the kids this year and it was really fun. It was great to have everybody here. We did all of the normal things that you do on Thanksgiving, right. You make the turkey. We like to make these delicious stuffed mushrooms and a homemade cheese ball that the recipe has been in my family for years that we love it and we made that and all the other traditional things. You know. So all of the other previous thanksgivings when I have made the turkey I have wanted it to be delicious and really yummy, like a really delicious turkey, mostly that is moist. And I have read all of these things that you should brine your turkey, a different kind of brine. I think I have tried many different kinds over the years and this year I was like I am not brining it. I do not want to. It is a lot of time. I do not have the time. I do not want to put any thought into cooking turkey other than I am just going to – it is going to thaw and I am going to get it out that morning and put in the turkey roaster and it is fine. So I did not brine it. I got it out. I looked online and found a very quick, easy rub that I can put on the turkey after I coated it in butter. Right. And it was all the spices and herbs that I already had in my kitchen so I just mixed this rub together put it on top of the turkey, put the turkey in the roaster and cooked it and I am not kidding you this is literally the best turkey I have ever made. It was the most moist, the most delicious turkey we have ever had. So I have just decided that I am not ever brining a turkey ever again. How was your day? I would love to hear. Come and send me a DM on Instagram @karinnelsoncoaching. Let’s talk. Tell me how your day went. I would love to hear.
Alright onto today’s topic which is letting go of the past. When we are struggling with something that has happened in our past and we can’t seem to let go of it or move on from it, it’s usually because we believe that this thing shouldn’t have happened. Or we tell ourselves some kind of story like I should have known better. Or I should have left sooner. I should have done something different to prevent this. It usually involves this word “should”. Right. This word, should, can be such a poisonous word when we use it against ourselves and others as well. Like they should be different. They shouldn’t have done that. They should act differently. But it’s the belief in this word that is keeping us stuck in replaying our past and not being able to move on with our life. And I am going to point out all of the ways this shows up in today’s episode and I am going to use an example from my own life. And this example does not have anything to do with divorce although I know this is a divorce podcast. I know why you are all here but I want you to see it from a different story so that you can see that this is showing up in our lives in so many different ways but then I want you to take the things that I am teaching you as we go through this episode and use it on any past story that you are struggling moving on with. It can be your divorce. It might be something else. You can use it on any story about your past that you just cannot let go of. That you feel like is keeping you stuck. Okay.
So a few years ago, I had been asked to speak at a single women’s retreat that was at Sundance. Sundance is in Utah. You have probably heard at the Sundance film Festival. That is actually in Park City but Sundance is a resort in Utah in one of the canyons in Utah. It is a beautiful place. They have a ski resort in the winter that you can go to and there is lots of cabins and restaurants and in the summer you can go up there and go hiking and biking and it is just a really beautiful place. So I was invited. This was February in Utah. I was invited to go speak at this women’s retreat and I was speaking at like 10 am. So I left my house that morning. I live about an hour, between an hour and hour a half away from Sundance and again Susan February so it is winter here in Utah. And it had started raining when I left that morning. And if you know anything about Utah we have mountains and the higher you get the colder it gets and rain, if it is raining down in the valley it usually means it is going to be snowing in the mountains. So I start driving. I get to Provo and I am driving up Provo canyon, which is where Sundance is located. And the roads are kind of slick. So I am slowing down. It is snowing hard. But it is still kind of scary. Have you ever driven snow? It is not the most fun thing. Right. It’s nobody’s favorite things drive in snow, let us just say that. So I go around a curve and my car spins out and I did a complete 360 on the road, slide over to the side of the road and hit the guard rail. Thankfully there was a guard rail there, otherwise I would have just gone right off into the Provo River which would have been absolutely terrifying. It was already terrifying as it was, the spin and hitting the guard rail. Thankfully I was okay. I wasn’t hurt. I had had my seatbelt on. There were no other cars around me at the moment thankfully because it could have been really bad, right. But the only thing that got damaged was my car which sucked, of course. That sucks but also my emotions. I was pretty sad. I was scared. I did not know what to do. I had never been in an accident like that before. I called my sister-in-law who lives very close to Provo Canyon and she came and sat with me while we waited for Tim to come and we waited for the tow truck to come. My car was totaled. I canceled my speaking at the retreat which I felt very bad about but also I was just in a car accident. My car was totaled. It was fine. She was fine with it. Everything was fine. It turned out okay. And for about a week or two after the accident happened and until, literally until I got coat by my own coach, I was spinning in this story in the past. I was spinning in all of the things that I should have done different. I was spinning in I shouldn’t have totaled the car. This shouldn’t have happened. It should have happened differently. I should have left earlier. I should have gone up the night before. I should have driven slower. Like all of these thoughts and ideas were going on in my head in mistakes that I thought I had made, in ways I was trying to come up with that I could have prevented this accident from happening. And on and on my mind was spinning about the past and I could not let it go. It was consuming all of my thoughts and it was very painful and I was blaming myself and I felt so terrible. I could not let this go.
So as I go through this episode and I’m going to teach you what I learned about letting go of the past when I had my coaching session and I am going to continue to use my example and I want you to apply to something in your past that you might be struggling to let go of.
So the first thing you are going to do is you are going to write out your situation on some paper. Either type it out, write it out, whatever is easier for you and I want you to go through it and either underline or circle everything that is a fact. So with my situation as the example some of the facts are, I was scheduled to speak at a retreat at 10 am at Sundance. It was snowing. I was driving 40 miles per hour. My car spun and hit a guard rail. Those are some of the facts. There are probably a few others in there that I could pull out but those are some. So that is the idea. You want the facts and then everything else that I told you in my story about my situation our thoughts. Or meaning that I was getting to it. But I want you to do this exercise because you will be able to see what the facts are and then when you can separate the facts from your thoughts that is going to help you take out so much of the drama that is attached to your story. That is always set one of being able to let go of the past is we have to be able to separate the facts from the drama that our brain is adding to the facts. Okay.
And by the way, when you do this I don’t want you to start judging yourself that you are being dramatic about your story. It’s fine. This is a human trait. We are all dramatic in our stories. In the meaning that we make about things we create drama and it is totally fine. This is not a bad thing. It does not mean that you are bad. It does not mean that you are doing something wrong. It does not mean that you are wrong but I want you see that it is the drama that is causing a lot of the pain and suffering in the spinning that you are feeling when you think about your past. So this act of becoming aware of the story that you are telling yourself is really important for your own healing.
So after you do that I want you to kind of notice where you are telling yourself the story of ‘should’. I told you some of my shreds but write out any sentences that are going on in your head where should is involved. I should have driven slower. I should have left earlier. I should have gone up the night before. I should have known better than to drive in the winter weather. I should have canceled once I saw the weather. I even had a story that I was believing that I am just not a good driver in snow and on that thought there was kind of this thought in parentheses as my coach likes to call it, I am not a good driver in the snow (and I should be). Right. Sometimes we have thoughts like that where I am not good enough and I should be or I am not good at this thing and I should be. So that is where you can kind of take a look at what are these ideas of should that I am telling myself in this story that I have got going on about my past. So notice where that is happening for you and write those out.
After you’ve written out your sentences of ‘should’ stories just pick one. We are just going to work on one sentence, one thought, one story that you are telling about your past. It does not matter which one you pick. Because they are all kind of leading you to feel something similar in the end and when we can change one thing about our brain it usually will trickle down into the other areas in our brain so you just have to pick one. We don’t have to try and change them all or work on them all. Pick one and when you think that sentence, that thought, in your head how does it make you feel? And I am going to go into this in more specifics in a second but I do not want you to get confused when I ask you how you feel because our society gets very confused about this idea of how you feel. Our society has taught us when someone asks us how we feel we give them a sentence. But that is not what the feeling is. A feeling is a one word descriptor of what is going on inside your body.
So for example if I use the sentence I should have left earlier that is one of my shoulds, right. I should have left earlier. And if I use societies way of answering the question how I feel when I think that it’s going to turn in to a battering ram of thoughts in my brain where I am beating myself up. So if I think I should have left earlier and then someone says how did that make you feel, well I feel stupid that I didn’t decide to leave earlier. Or I feel like anyone who was smarter than me would have looked at the weather and concluded that it was going to be snowing in the canyon and probably leaving earlier would have been smarter. Or I feel like I made a huge mistake in even going in first place. So even though the words “I feel” are in those sentences, those are actually sentences. They are not feelings. They are just more stories, more meaning that I am using to fuel my story that I should have done something different. That I should have been different in some way. Okay. So I just want to make that distinction.
So instead, when you think about the sentence that you’ve chosen what is the one word descriptor that you feel. When I think I should have left earlier I feel inadequate. What do you feel when you think about the sentence that you picked? Write that down.
The next thing I want you to do is focus on the actions that you do or don’t take when you feel that emotion inside your body. Now remember, I had been spinning in my ‘should’ story for about a week or two until I got help from my coach. Every time I thought about how I should have left earlier I would then feel inadequate. But I wasn’t feeling inadequate about my past. I was feeling inadequate in my life right then in the present moment, because we can’t feel feeling from the past. We can only feel what’s happening in our bodies right now, in the present moment. So feeling inadequate, every time I would think about that and spin in that thought, was showing up in everything that I was doing in my life at that time. Inadequacy is a sister emotion to shame, and shame makes you want to hide. Shame makes you believe that you are wrong. That you are bad. That you are not enough in some way. So I did a lot of hiding over those two weeks. I didn’t show up for my business in the way that I normally would. I didn’t do any marketing. I didn’t do any teaching. I wasn’t reaching out to potential clients. I wasn’t coaching my client in the way that I wanted to because I was holding myself back from being fully authentic with myself and with them. I was hiding in my brain looking for all the mistakes I had made in this driving situation and trying to come up with all of the alternatives that I should have done differently – which we think about it isn’t even an option because we can’t change the past – and yet knowing that, understanding that we can’t change the past definitely didn’t stop me from trying to change this feeling of inadequacy. I was hiding in my relationships with my kids and my with boyfriend because I just didn’t feel like I wasn’t enough. I was retreating and pulling away. I wanted to be alone. I didn’t want to talk to them about what was happening in my head and how bad I was feeling about myself. And I was constantly looking for more evidence in my past in other situations, of other times that I felt inadequate and I would add those to my memory filing cabinet that I was keeping in my head of how inadequate of a person that I truly am and I was using all of that as evidence to continue to prove my story that I should have been doing something different. I am inadequate.
So think about this in terms of your situation. When you think about your should the sentence and then you figure out how to make you feel what do you do or not do when you feel that and write out your actions. Just in the same way I described to you what I was and was not doing.
And what was really going on for me that I was able to see after doing this work with my coach was that I was continuing to make this story of the accident be present in my life all day long, every day for those two weeks. I was letting it affect me constantly. Now this is important, because when I say this result out loud it seems really obvious. Right. I was replaying in my head. I was continuing to live in it. I was making a present even though it had already happened. That seems very obvious. Like of course, if you keep living in the past and replaying it and telling yourself you should have done things differently then of course you’re continuing to let that affect you now. But even though it is very obvious to see, we often don’t want to see it or can’t see it when we are in that space. When we are doing it to ourselves. When we are in the middle of the spin and when we are reliving the past and trying to change it in those moments, it’s really hard to see that we are doing this to ourselves. It took my coach pointing it out to me. It was almost like I was taking off a pair of glasses that I just could not see the obviousness of me re-creating my past for myself. And I hope that this might offer you some peace to yourself being able to remove those glasses and go oh my gosh, yes, this is exactly what I am doing. I am re-creating the past for myself right now by continuing to live in it. By continuing to create all of the suffering for myself.
After you’ve done all of the work and hopefully you come to this realization that the effect of this story and how you are feeling and how you are showing up in your life is having on your life right now, how do we let go of the past? Because we first need to be aware of it which is everything we just did, so now what is the step to being able to let go of that story? To stop the spin? To stop letting your past affect you right now in your present?
To be able to let go of the past you have to be willing to stop believing that you should have done anything different than what you did. You have to be willing to step into acceptance that the past happened exactly as it was going to happen – and the way we know that is true, is because it is what happened. It happened the way it did. The reality of my situation with the car accident is that I left when I left. I drove the speed that I drove. It was snowing. My car slipped on the icy road. I hit the guard rail and the car was totaled. It was always going to happen that way, because it did happen that way. Byron Katie said, “When you argue with reality you lose – but only 100% of the time.” She is so right in that statement. When you argue with reality you will lose every time. And when we do that, when we argue with what actually happened and we try and change the past, that is when we continue to spin and create so much pain and suffering for ourselves.
So then your only job here in being able to let go of the past becomes working on letting go of the story that it should have been different than it was. And I’m not saying this part is easy and you can just drop the story right away and then move on. I am not saying that is easy at all because it is not.
I think most of the work that we do when it comes to being able to evolve and be able to grow as humans is learning to let go of stories that we are holding on to that are keeping us stuck. That we are believing should have been different. For me letting go of my story that I should have done it differently was a process, and yours probably will be a process as well.
I had on forgiving my past self. I was holding a lot of blame for her that she had done something wrong. But when I was able to think about my past in this different way and recognize that it was always going to happen that way, because it did happen this way, then I was able to stop blaming my past self believing that I had done something wrong or that I could have prevented this in some way. I couldn’t have prevented it. How do I know? Because it wasn’t prevented. Because it happened the way that it did.
Part of your process might involve some forgiveness for your past self. It might involve some understanding of your past self and why you made the choices you made in those moments. If that is the case, then think about it in this way. Your brain always has a good reason for doing things in the moments that you do them. Think about ways your past self might have had a good reason for doing it the way she did. Sometimes just having a bit of compassion and understanding for that past version of you will help you to see things from a different perspective and will allow you to let go of your past so that you can begin to move forward.
Let this process take as long as it takes. Healing from our past and being able to accept it and move on is going to be different for each of us. But it is possible. I promise you, when you can learn to accept what is and that it was always going to happen that way because it did happen that way, you will be able to slowly loosen your grip on the story that is keeping you stuck in the past and you will be able to finally let go of it and move forward from there.
All right thanks so much for listening. I hope this helps. I will talk to you next week.
If you like what you’re learning on the podcast and you’re ready to create lasting change and results in your life then you need to be working 1:1 with Karin as your divorce coach. This is where we take everything you’re learning in the podcast and 10x it with implementation and weekly coaching where you start to see change in yourself and your life immediately. To find out more about how work exclusively with Karin go to www.karinnelsoncoaching.com . That’s www dot Karin nelson coaching dot com.
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