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Heal the Wounds of Your Past and Move on to a Brighter Future

Updated on July 17, 2019
Becca Linn profile image

My greatest passion is empowering others to improve their quality of life and achieve their goals by choosing healthy thoughts and habits.

How Do Unhealed Wounds From the Past Affect the Present and Future?

When we are able to fully love, accept, and forgive ourselves, we are better able to overcome the hurdles that have been holding us back and launch ourselves into future success. For more information on this topic, check out my recent article.

When there are aspects of our past that we aren't able to fully validate and accept, it is impossible to completely love our present selves. After all, the person we couldn't accept in the past is part of the person that we have become in the present.

While guilt is a healthy motivator that helps us to make positive changes in our lives, shame is a weapon that we often use against ourselves that makes us embarrassed about who we are.

Guilt generally doesn't wound us, because it is a sense that an action was wrong. Shame on the other hand will torture us for a lifetime if we let it, because it makes us feel that there is something wrong with us.

Many people live with a burden of shame and have a hard time accepting things they did earlier in life.

This can make it easier to fall back into the same traps that they fell into in their younger years when they are faced with situations that bring up similar emotions to those they experienced in the past.

Some people are haunted by their pasts for years or even for lifetimes, but thankfully there is a way to freedom and joy that almost always leads to greater success.

Tip #1 For Healing Your Past: Recognize that You are Human

In most cases we are our own worst critics. It is much easier to forgive a friend or a family member than it is to forgive ourselves, because we know all of our weaknesses, and we have a tendency to have a fairly unrealistic expectation of perfection for ourselves.

We are all human, and it is time that we stop trying to make ourselves the exception to that rule.

Humans are imperfect beings. They all have their own unique strengths and weaknesses, and because they have weaknesses, they are going to make mistakes from time to time.

It's an odd paradox that we beat ourselves up over our mistakes convincing ourselves that we are such lowly specimens, when in the very act of this self-disdain we are actually showing our pride.

After all, who are we to decide that we are better than every other human being on the planet and aren't supposed to make any mistakes?

The truly humble way to handle this situation is to recognize that we have weaknesses and that we have made mistakes, but also to recognize that making mistakes is a normal part of life, fully recognizing that we can continue to progress and grow.

This is explained perfectly in one of my favorite scriptures which says:

"And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them." (Ether 12:27)

We are all human, and it is time that we stop trying to make ourselves the exception to that rule.

Tip #2: Take Some Time for Introspection and Discover What Emotions Led to the Actions You Are Ashamed Of

Emotions are powerful, and when we behave in a way that we aren't proud of, it is almost always in response to an emotion that we aren't sure how to cope with.

You might think that you struggle with a particular habit because it makes you happy, but in truth, the reason you turn to a negative habit is probably because you are sad, angry, scared, bored, or some other emotion that you don't want to deal with.

Take some time to dig deep and figure out which emotion (or combination of emotions) led (or leads) you to act in ways that you feel guilty about later.

Don't be surprised if there are some tears that come up during this process. You could end up bringing up years worth of emotions that have been numbed by negative habits.

This can feel a little bit scary, but it is important, because once you realize how scary these emotions are, you will be in a better position to give yourself some understanding and recognize that you had a valid reason for choosing the negative behaviors that you chose.

We wouldn't choose negative behaviors and habits that hurt us if we didn't think that they were giving us a worthwhile reward, and in almost every case, the reward we get from our actions is a way to cover some sort of pain from an emotional wound that hasn't had a chance to heal.

Emotions are powerful, and when we behave in a way that we aren't proud of, it is almost always in response to an emotion that we aren't sure how to cope with.


Tip #3 For Healing Your Past: Treat Yourself the Way You Treat Your Best Friend

If your best friend confided in you that they were feeling horrible and ashamed about something in their past, you would probably compassionately remind them that they are loved no matter what they did wrong.

You might remind them of the circumstances they were in at the time, and say something like, "It would be hard for anyone in that situation to cope with so much pain/abuse/sadness/fill in the blank."

You definitely wouldn't jump on the band wagon of beating them up emotionally by saying, "You're right! I can't believe you ever did something like that! You're a horrible person!"

Sometimes it can be helpful to use your imagination to look at your past self as a separate entity from your present self. Try to think of how you would treat your past self if it was your best friend instead of you, and then follow through treating yourself with kindness and love.

Picture yourself giving the past you a hug and speaking all the comforting words that are necessary to heal the emotional wounds that were suffered.

This might sound cheesy but some people have even found success picturing their past self as a sweet innocent baby. They picture their present selves holding this baby and sending it all the love and support that it needs to face the trials that will come in its future.

How This Looks In Real Life: My Personal Experience

Recently I found myself turning back to a habit that I thought I had completely overcome, and every time I gave in, I found myself feeling horrible.

Those of you who have read some of my other articles know that I worked really hard to lose almost 100 pounds, and that I have made huge progress in overcoming a sugar addiction through educating myself about the negative effects that sugar has on my body.

Well, for whatever reason I decided that for about a week and a half I was going to throw all that knowledge aside, and eat whatever garbage was presented to me.

I knew it wasn't in my best interest, but I did it anyway (and just so you know, my body made it obvious that it did not appreciate the fact that I was feeding it harmful foods. It was so not worth it!)

One night, I woke up with a stomach ache after gorging myself on a delicious dessert, and decided that it was time to figure out what was going on. This was so not like me!

I did some EFT tapping about what I was doing, and soon I was able to get down to the emotional roots of why I had decided to throw my good habits aside and exchange them for negative ones that were hurting my body.

I realized that recently I had been hurt by someone that I really cared about, and rather than coping with that pain in a positive way, I had chosen to turn to food as a way to numb the pain and find the joy that I felt had been robbed from me.

It was a way that I could trick myself into feeling happy and fulfilled even though I was feeling the exact opposite inside.

Once I was able to recognize the roots of my problem, I was able to easily forgive myself for having chosen this bad habit.

After all, why would I want to experience the pain of hurt or rejection when I could just mask it with the satisfaction I feel when enjoying my favorite pistachio ice cream?

I forgave myself, and asked my Savior, Jesus Christ, to forgive me for turning to ice cream rather than to him during a time when I was in need of healing.

Then my mind started to wander to a time in my past, a time when I overate all the time (There's a reason that I was able to lose so much weight, and that's because I spent a lot of years eating way more than I should have.).

Now, I have a confession to make. It's been over a decade since I began my journey to improved health, and I've never been able to fully accept the obese person that I used to be.

Like I mentioned before, I'm my worst critic. I don't judge other people who are overweight, but for a long time I hated to see pictures of myself from those overweight years.

Even though I knew I was a good person all along, I couldn't accept the person that I used to be, but on this particular night, I had a huge break through, and I want to share that with you.

Since I already recognized that feelings of rejection and not being "cool enough or fun enough" were triggers for my most recent issue with unhealthy food choices, I allowed myself to wonder whether that could have been part of the reason I turned to food so much in my past.

I always had great friends, and I grew up in a strong family, so it makes sense that I would feel perfectly accepted and not have to worry about these types of emotions, but as we know, all of us, and particularly teenagers, are faced with difficult situations every day that could easily trigger these types of emotions.

With the maturity I have now, I can recognize that those emotions were too much for me to handle in my less mature teenage state.

To be honest, they're too difficult for me to handle on my own now, but thankfully I've been blessed with knowledge about a lot of healthy coping mechanisms (My Savior's atonement, being the number one).

As I allowed myself to dig deep and recognize all of the emotions that led me to turn to food for healing in my younger years, I felt so bad for this poor girl in my past that had suffered so much pain and hurt, and didn't understand how to cope in a healthy way. No wonder this sweet innocent girl became addicted to junk foods!

I wanted to take her in my arms and give her a big hug. I wanted to reach out to her and wipe away the tears that she had hidden so well, even from herself. I wanted to relieve the extra emotional burden she had carried around for so many years in the form of physical weight.

For the first time in my life I was able to completely accept and love this girl that I had judged unfairly for so long.

I forgave that girl, and I asked my Savior to forgive me for the fact that I hadn't turned to him in my time of need back then and for the fact that I had judged myself so harshly.

A huge burden was lifted, and I honestly felt like a new person. By learning to love that part of me in my past that I had always judged so harshly, I've been able to more fully love the person that I am in the present.

By learning to love that part of me in my past that I had always judged so harshly, I've been able to more fully love the person that I am in the present.

It's Time for You to Forgive Your Past

If there is anything in your past that causes you to feel ashamed and embarrassed, it's time to let go.

You can't go back and change the past, but you can change how you feel about it, and I can tell you from my personal experience that forgiving yourself makes all the difference.

© 2015 Rebecca Young


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