Emotional Health

The Bright Side: How to Let Go of the Past

Reframing is an active technique to let go of negative thoughts and feelings. Here are a few examples that can help:

  • Map It—Imagine the experience you want to let go of and see it on a map, far away. Look at all the distance in terms of time, as if on a map, as a physical metaphor for how distant it is.
  • Move It—See your troops as little soldiers, push-pins, or whatever and imagine picking them up and moving them to your side of a river, with the negative experience or person on a distant shore.
  • Compare It—Think of the ways in which you are now free of the negative circumstances. If you have left an injurious relationship, focus on the ways that your ex no longer hurts or controls the circumstances of your life. Visualize the freedom that you have now and think of things you enjoy doing with it.
  • Compartmentalize It—Using the idea of a quilt as a metaphor for the present, imagine all the areas that are now going well and filling up most of the squares of the quilt. Think of the negative aspects as less central areas of the quilt that may detract only a little from the overall beauty of it, but take nothing away from the beauty of individual squares that are good.

Life does not have to be perfect in order to be good. Cultivate the idea that you can enjoy the present even if there are issues that are not resolved. Most of us need to re-evaluate the implicit idea that happiness is like a vial of liquid: if there is poison in it, even a little, the whole drink may be ruined. Things can be going badly in one area but that does not necessarily mean everything is compromised.

No one ever gets it all right. There are always things that we cannot control or make right and while they made need some of our attention, these things can be put in perspective and kept from dominating our experience. If we wait for everything to go right at once before we let go of unhappiness, it will never happen.

Another analogy is a garden. Flowers don’t all bloom at once. Beautiful spring blossoms are dead and withered a few weeks later, but if we move on and let them go, we will be free to enjoy the new ones that summer brings.


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  • l gibbons February 23, 2017 at 9:22 am

    This article has been very helpful to me.
    One just has to try and but it in the background or think if it as wilted blooms