by Teresia Smith
Are you holding on to painful memories which you find difficult to let go of? Maybe it’s not something you think about every day. Maybe you stuffed those memories into a corner of your mind and thought you forgot them. Sometimes people don’t realize they are holding onto these memories until something triggers them and they suddenly feel overwhelmed. Holding on to pain from the past is kind of like holding a hot coal in your hand and hoping that you don’t get burned. Each time a painful memory is allowed space, it is given new life by welcoming the past into the present.
Instead of working through our pain, we tend to push it aside and just “sweep it under the rug.” But you know, after sweeping those things under the rug for some time, the lump under the rug becomes a trip hazard. Something will spark our unconscious to recall a past memory and suddenly, we are drawn into a bad mood and can’t pinpoint why. It’s usually when we least expect it and then anger, anxiety, depression and sadness engulf us.
We have to be careful and aware, for some people holding onto their pain is like wearing a badge of honor — it identifies them as one who has been victimized. They wear their badge of victimhood to mark their identity and as a means to justify their behaviors. Tony Fahkry says, “Oftentimes people hold on to their pain for so long that it forms a safety blanket. They would feel lost without the pain and suffering. After all, they would have no story to tell. Perhaps others might find them uninteresting. Who would they be without their story?” Working through and moving past hurt and pain isn’t easy and some get stuck wallowing in the murky feelings and are never able to move on and allow their pain to consume their current life too. They live an angry, defeated life and look for any opportunity to go to war with others when things don’t go their way.
In order to move forward and enjoy an abundant life, we must be willing to let go of the pain from the past. To make space for new, fresh energy to lodge within us, we must release the pain and suffering from the past. This in no way takes away the significance of what happened to you. You are not ignoring what happened and you are not saying it is okay. What you are doing is saying that you are consciously choosing to stop carrying the burden into your future. You are choosing to stop paying the price for what someone did to you. “Renew, release, let go. Yesterday’s gone. There’s nothing you can do to bring it back. You can’t “should’ve” done something. You can only DO something. Renew yourself. Release that attachment. Today is a new day!” (Steve Maraboli).
Viktor Frankl reminds us:
Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” Survivors of sexual assault and intimate partner violence often are overwhelmed with painful memories. Many find that if they have a trusted, safe place to talk through their feelings, healing can take place. Crisis Services of North Alabama offers free and confidential services to victims of sexual assault and intimate partner violence. You may reach our office at 256.574.5826 or you may speak with a trained crisis counselor at our 24/7 HELPline at 256.716.1000. You are not alone.