How to Let Go of the Ghost of The Past

Prabhleen Gupta

Prabhleen Gupta

Founder- Personal Mastery

Let Go of the Past

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Learning from the past is essential to understanding the present and not repeating mistakes, but living in the past, spending all the time haunted by the ghosts of the past, revisiting it frequently is one of the most destructive habits for mental health.

When we cannot defeat the ghost of the past, we end up thinking with a negative filter that makes us miss the present and miss opportunities.

Here are some tricks to exorcise the ghost of the past:

Why cannot you face the ghost and defeat it?

Human beings act primarily to avoid pain and feel pleasure. We often find ourselves looking for pleasure recreating in the past, circumstances, places, relationships … in short, a time when we were more “happy” than we are now.

You recreate those moments with the lights, the costumes, the scenery, the music, and your brain reacts to the imagined sensory stimuli as if they were real, generating expansive emotion. Your body generates hormones that produce well-being, and you already have what you were looking for: a pleasant sensation that evades you from this present moment that you do not want to live.

It is an easy and immediate resource. That is why we often become addicted (literally) to that chemical process, clinging to an illusion that only exists in our heads. We cling to that illusion of a recreated past, passed through our filter of beliefs, often idealized, which is no longer there because the cycle has been completed, and that is no longer what we have to live.

Everything changes; it is difficult for us to accept the law of change, especially for good.

We live, or rather, we refuse to live the grief that often entails the loss that we suffer from change, and we continue in the past that separates us from life.

Living looking at the past is living with our backs to life, and from that perspective, it is much more difficult for things to come our way, and we can open ourselves to new possibilities or new relationships.

But what happens when we cling to the negativity of the past? Why is it difficult for us to let go of recurring thoughts about that injury that we suffer, or do we continue to think about it and blame ourselves for that mistake we made?

Our brain is specially designed to generate learning that keeps us safe. When we experience adverse circumstances that supposedly put our integrity, physical, emotional, or bodily, in check, the brain makes that information is remembered and taken into account.

From 0 to 7 years, approximately, depending on our family heritage, life history, and sociocultural environment, we generate learning regarding experiences that we live as threatening. And when we feel something similar in the present, the emotion that anchored that experience is manifested again with all its intensity to warn us and put us safe from the supposed threat.

We are safe, anyway, now from a danger that no longer exists because it has passed, but we continue in that mental and emotional loop that keeps us from living at the moment. It is as if the survival software activated by that experience is still operational in the present. There are more factors at play, but the loop is perpetuated because we don’t want to go through the same thing, ultimately, to avoid pain.

Concerning the grievances that we have been able to suffer, on a mostly unconscious level, there are especially burdensome for us because they are related to our wounds, to those issues that touch us most closely.

A person who has low self-esteem likely remembers that insult or contempt, especially with more pain. A person with a wound of injustice likely remembers with more resent those experiences that he lived as unjust, etc.

Thus, we create a ghost ourselves that lives inside us and continue to torment us.

Nevertheless, life is so generous that it puts experiences in front of us that help us to observe that wound, recognize it, free ourselves from the pattern, and take that evolutionary step. This is why it is so important to learn to let go of your past and trust the present.

To defeat that ghost, all you need to do is open up to learning and take responsibility. If someone did not act according to your expectation, you need to forgive him or her.

Why is it so difficult to let go of the blame for that past mistake?

We find it difficult to forgive ourselves partly because the mistakes are not part of our learning.

We feel that we fail, and we do not like to fail because it makes us less kind, less perfect, less acceptable to our closest environment from whom we constantly seek affection and approval.

This reconnects us with basic needs that we need to cover from our earliest childhood; love and acceptance from our environment, especially from our parents.

We feel that we did it wrong, and the first ones who do not forgive ourselves because we do not accept ourselves.

We are fallible, human, and we did not do things differently simply because we could not. Otherwise, we would have done it.

You did what you could with the resources you had at the time. You did what your fear left you, what your level of consciousness allowed you and the others, those who wronged you, who did not live up to your expectations, etc., also did the same. It is very easy to see things in retrospect and judge our actions from there, but this judgment, like the rest, is a biased view of reality.

What can we do to let go of the ghost of the past and live in the present? Learn to let go.

I invite you to follow these six steps to become aware and be light.

Identify those moments in which you catch yourself fantasizing about “the good times.”

For that, you have to be attentive and observe your mind, body, and emotion. Does it sound like you? Mindfulness to the present moment, when you see yourself in those, ask yourself, what need brings you there? What do you miss? What circumstances of your present lead you to evade that?

Becoming aware of these things alone is already a great step to deactivate the automation and connect with reality, with the here and now.

Ask yourself: What are the secondary benefits of keeping the ghost alive?

We likely avoid the present because if we connect with it and take responsibility for our lives, we would have to make decisions that we do not want to make.

The shot of “fantasy past” anesthetizes us and helps us to remain immobile.

In this case, although deep down we know that this does not fully satisfy us either, the fear of facing what is greater than the need for change and there we are with a stagnated river of life, and when the water stagnates, it rots.

Connect with the here and now and take things as they come, deciding based on your true needs, those that are revealed when we refine internal listening with meditation.

We stop denying emotion and give up justifying that immobility. Perhaps the thing is not so bad, and if it is, it is better now than later because we will have less strength with the stagnant vital flow.

Close the chapter and end the cycle

Please recognize that the cycle is over and decide to say goodbye to the past. It is the law of life.

When you see yourself dragging old relationships, stretching that chapter of your life that has run out of content; feeding an empty circle that is difficult for you to close; say to yourself with inner determination, ” Goodbye” x “past, hello present.”

Next, take a deep breath and get back to here and now, and continue writing the script of your life from there.

With that simple gesture, your attention and energy go into the present, with what is coming.

Forgive yourself and forgive others

Accept your mistakes, we all make them and it is part of the learning that we have come to do in this world.

Do what you need to so you can be at peace with your past. That mostly happens by forgiving yourself first and forgiving beyond reasoning, circumstances, judgments … You forgive yourself with the heart accepting that each one does what he can as he can and everything is part of what life has to do for our growth.

Live the conflict

The loss of a loved one, a forced change of residence, a friendship with whom we lost contact because now he is “busy in his life,” an illness… all these add grief and nostalgia to life.

Living in the past denying that loss brings great incoherence and takes away a lot of strength from life.

Going through grief is one of the most transformative processes we can experience. Although it sounds paradoxical, connecting with death connects us with life. Behind grief, there is a rebirth. Surely, you have heard experiences of very painful losses that have led to the awakening of the people who went through it.

Another advantage of consciously mourning is that it opens the way to heal others and makes us much more resilient, helping us recover before adversity.

I encourage you that if you recognize yourself in this situation, ask for help from an expert. It is much easier to let go of the ghost when you have an expert by your side.

Appreciate the experience

Give thanks to people who were part of your life for having shared that part of the journey, for the experience they led, for everything you learned in those tough or kind circumstances.

Everything, absolutely everything, has contributed to who you are today. The most valuable part of looking back is to be able to honor it.


It all begins with you.

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