NOTE: This post was originally published in the Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Life blog.
“My Mama always said you’ve got to put the past behind before you can move on.” – Forrest Gump
Forrest Gump seemed to have learned a lesson that many smarter and more accomplished people have not. Despite the fact that we all know that life never gave us a guarantee that we would be fairly treated and that bad things would not happen to us, we commonly get taken by surprise when life gives us a blow that we think we don’t deserve. As much as
we try to move on after a setback, all too often yesterday’s blows become todays negative pull that grips us and limits our enjoyment of NOW. A powerful pull from the land of past regrets and “woulda coulda shouldas” loom larger than life, robbing us of our sense of well being. Perhaps most tragic, however, is the feeling that yesterday’s disappointments, losses and failures have set the stage for the rest of our lives, leaving many with a loss of hope that they will never, ever “get over” what is too late to change.
There are no shortage of things to “get over” in our lives. There are obvious devastating traumas such as crippling accidents, serious illness, personal loss, family conflict, job layoffs or termination, failure, and painful breakups, to name a few. However, many insults to our internal equanimity are not as visible to the eye. Private heartbreaks and invisible scars of disappointments in ourselves and others can lead to questioning past choices, leaving us to wonder “why”, “why didn’t,” “why didn’t I,” and “if only.” Despite the fact that we “know better,” and realize that nothing can change what is past, it sometimes seems almost impossible to “get over” these painful feelings of lost opportunities, failed chances, poor choices, broken friendships and irrecoverable relationships. The profound sense of loss and disillusionments might very well lead us to feel doubtful that we can ever really “get over it!”
Yes – it is too late to alter what has happened, but the truth is that we need not be held hostage forever by the land of broken dreams and lost chances. The following are 6 tips to move forward from yesterday’s pull, to finally once and for all, “get over it.”
1. Realize that some things you never really “get over” but you still can “get through.”
There are some things that are so life altering that we never can truly leave them behind us. Extreme and heart breaking loss such as the death of a child, severe trauma, facing a fatal disease, life-altering accidents in which you or a loved one are permanently disabled or disfigured, are just a few examples. The more tragic the impairment or loss, the more we are challenged to rise above it. The more we are pressed to make good of something so bad, the more we need to to seek support and help to carry on. Those that are determined to open their hearts to try again, to love again, to trust again, will get through the trauma much better than those that shut down and spiral into isolation and bitterness. We might not have the ability to change the past, but we can choose how we deal with it so we can at least get on with life in a way that is albeit quite different from before, but a life that still offers hope and joy.
2. Things that you can’t “get over” are great warnings!
Imagine the gas light on your car. The gas light signals that we are running low on gas so as to prevent us from running out of gas and alerting us that action needs to be taken, i.e. to get to a gas station. Likewise, the things in our lives that we can not “get over” are telling us something that we still have things to learn – and it is up to us to discover what!
3. Over 80 percent of our life is determined not by events, but our reaction to them.
Instead of focusing on what can not be changed, focus on what can be changed. In most cases, events or other people do not cause us to feel a certain way. WE DO! Taking responsibility for your own thoughts and feelings, getting out of a victim mentality, will empower you to make stepping stones out of your past regrets, setbacks and disappointments instead of wearing them as millstones around your neck.
4. Stick to the facts, not interpretations
Often we can not “get over” something because of stories we tell ourselves, which are not based on facts. For example, some people who lose a job will be disappointed, but still have the confidence to move on realizing that there might be better opportunities. In contrast, others would not be able to “get over” the trauma of rejection and label themselves as losers andfailures. People in crisis often create stories about themselves and personalize life’s cruel twist as somehow reflecting their self worth, resulting from old ingrained judgmental thought habits. The negative “self-talk” becomes so ingrained that often we do not realize that we have the power to change it!
5. Give yourself permission to grieve what “could have been”
In some instances, we can’t be expected to “get over” something too soon if we have not gone through the process of grieving. Grieving is not just a process we go through in dealing with the death or loss of a loved one. There are less visible and concrete losses, such as a realization that you might not have the life you thought you would, that your enthusiasm of Act 1 on your life gave way to a very disappointing Act 2 or 3. Anywhere from large scale grief to private heartache, the process of grieving is vital to the healing process. At times we need to go through stages of anger and bitterness in order to be able to move to the stage of acceptance.
6. Seek support – as long as it the healthy type!
People grow best through support and relationships. Those who retreat inward and shut people off so as not to be hurt again will keep on re-traumatizing themselves. Those who become better from a setback rather than become bitter will find new avenues to seek support to soothe their sense of loss. Healthy and supportive relationships can help heal wounds. Even if others can not fix your trauma, they can help you cry. Also – keep in mind that even if you are reeling from a broken heart, at least when it is broken, it becomes open!
7. Know that there are no“do-overs” but there are “second chances.”
Remind yourself that it’s never too late to “start over.” As the famous quote by George Elliot reads, “It’s never too late to be what you might have been.” If you learn lessons from what you can not “get over,” and make healthy decisions now based on what you learned, you will truly give yourself new life to an old issue. Changing behaviors to cope with or prevent unfortunate things from happening again will empower you. Being proactive instead of reactive, while making changes based on your life lessons, can heal past hurts. Reworking yesterday never really works!
8. Forgive for goodness sake!
Whether you need to forgive yourself, others or even God or life itself, forgiveness will release you from the chains of bitterness. The more you can forgive, the more you can accept life as it comes. Forgiveness opens your heart to gratitude, focusing on what is good in your life rather than what is sorely missed. Imagine you are looking at a bagel. Do you focus on the hole or on the whole? Give yourself a gift by trading bitterness and powerlessness to acceptance and gratitude.
If you follow these 8 tips to “get over it” you will be in great shape to get on with your life!
I welcome comments. What are things you can not “get over” and do you have other suggestions on how to “get over it?”