Spiritual Growth and Christian Living Resources

5 Ways to Heal the Emotional Pain of Your Past

5 Ways to Heal the Emotional Pain of Your Past

Our mind (and our heart) are both battlegrounds, as they are home to fragments of our life experiences that shape us. Most of us are tiptoeing through pleasant pasture—mixed with shards of glass. An alloy of positive memories, like sweet-smelling fruit, is also impacted by painful incidents that cling like mold...polluting what makes us feel good about ourselves and others.

Deep-rooted, emotional pain hurts. It thrusts us off balance, obstructs our plans, and often is difficult to dig up. This messy, tangled web spreads throughout our life and affects the relationships most dear to us. When the source of painful memories suffocates our fruit, it rots.

Ultimately, we become numb to our pain and even justify our reactions and make excuses. In this unhealthy state, we lose our joy and happiness. Pain paralyzes us, leaving us standing still, staring off into the future like a mannequin in a store window. Wouldn't it be great if our hearts were like a blackboard?

As difficult as it seems, the good news is we can scrape off the mold and let the pain go. God's word says we must endure for a little while. God can restore us.

And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong and steadfast.1 Peter 5:10

1. Regardless of Your Past, Realize Your Story Matters

Think of your history as preparation. Some people hide family stories and live in shame. But, good and bad, our actions influence us and equip us for our God-given purpose.

Reflect on your past with openness. Do your part, even own your mistakes. God will carry you through.

The Lord makes firm the steps of the one who delights in him; though he may stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with his hand.Psalm 37:23-24

But maybe you're claiming stories that are not yours? Let them go.

You can't control the actions of others, but you can manage your response. Sometimes we fixate on adverse events and blame it on others. "If I hadn't experienced (fill in the blank) I wouldn't be like this,” or, “if she had done this differently…I would be able to…"

Blaming thoughts are like cement boots. You'll never win that race.

2. Accept What You Can’t Change

Don't give pain power. Offer gratitude for the positive qualities you've gained. Pull out the lessons. What has your history taught you? Can your pain help others? God often uses our pain to benefit others. Focus on the good from each encounter. Count it all joy that testing of your faith produces steadfastness. (James 1:2-4)

We live in a broken world where emotional pain is inevitable. We may never forget the past, but we can choose how we look at it. Permit yourself to make mistakes, and allow others to do the same.

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.Ephesians 4:32

Sometimes we detest ourselves for things we can't control or fault others for our actions and feelings. You may never get an apology from the person who hurt you. They may not want to fix it, or worse, they don't see the pain they caused.

Sometimes it may be impossible for them to remedy, or they don't know how. Our offender may carry their hurt over the incident. If we see life from a blame perspective, we enter a limbo state, powerless to move forward because we're sticking around for closure that isn't possible.

Instead, we can take control and reposition our stance from blame to acceptance.

We don't like what's happened to us, but we accept it. It wasn't right, but we realize we couldn't have stopped it. We do the best we know how. Accept this and close the door to your pain by forgiving yourself and others.

Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.Colossians 3:13

peeling back old cracked earth to reveal renewal blue sky rainbow birdsPhoto Credit: ©GettyImages/NirutiStock

3. Allow Your Past to Transform You

Life builds our character where faith is developed, and strength and endurance come alive. We never understand how strong we are until we face challenges.

Kathy Troccoli, the co-author of Falling in Love with Jesus, says, "In those desperate times when we feel like we don't have an ounce of strength, He will gently pick up our heads so that our eyes can behold something—something that will keep His hope alive in us."

When we glance back, we can see more clearly. We can't change our reaction to pain, but we can move ahead with a fresh perspective and increased clarity. Our past assessment affects the way we approach life. Often, we don't realize our reaction, but bringing it to the forefront is a catalyst for change when we know the why behind our response.

Not all painful experiences are terrible. Some work themselves out. Yet other seemingly insignificant events are more painful later. This understanding has taught me that regular reflection is important. Don't blame. Own it, fix it, and move ahead. By accepting responsibility for where you were, you can use it to improve your present and where you're going.

What can you control today? What is beyond your control? Keep the best alive, learn from the past, but avoid living there. Walk forward in the present.

4. Allow Yourself to Feel

Instead of playing hide and seek with your emotions, be honest with your feelings to foster healing. Sadness is okay. Buried emotions will only fester. Whatever you stuff gets bigger and explodes. The saying, it's not about the shoes, is true. Emotions can quickly pile up and threaten to overwhelm you. Sometimes we seek painful emotions by repeatedly digging into events that have hurt us in the past.

Shine light on your feelings. Instead of wallowing or avoiding, sometimes, you may need to talk it out.

Journaling is one of the most healing activities to bring about clarity and release negative emotions. It can help you uncover pain points, deal with them, and replace them with positive thoughts. We can sit for hours crying over injustice, or we can dance through moments of appreciation we've known in our life. Focus on the fruit.

You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy.Psalm 30:11

Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/beerphotographer

5. Let It Go

No one cares about your happiness as much as you. Quite often, the perpetrator has forgotten about the incident you're planning to harbor for the next decade.

You can give yourself as much peace of mind in a situation as you choose, but it's up to you. Refuse to be a victim. Don’t just sit and wait for a re-do, because life moves forward. Pain pops in unannounced and uninvited, and if we offer it a spare room, it imprisons us. Close the door and lock it tightly. Just say no.

Create a routine that allows you to redirect your thoughts when an unpleasant memory comes to mind. Sometimes we can't let it go because we've become fond of the shame and hurt we carry. We can hold on to the past, or we can drop it. But it's up to us to decide.

Whatever we focus on gets bigger. We can shuffle around with a backpack of sadness. But happiness is a light burden to bear.

Create a new normal. Surround yourself with people that love and accept you. Dwell on the good that makes you smile.

Do not conform to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.Romans 12:2

Enjoy this encouraging video of prayers for a peace that surpasses the pain of your past:

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Photo Credit: ©Getty Images/Jantanee Rungpranomkorn

headshot of author Diane LeGereDiana LéGere is a Christian writer whose passion is to share her faith and life experience through her words and help other women do the same. She is the author of four books, most recent, Celebrations of Praise: 365 Ways to Fill Each Day with Meaningful Moments and the memoir journal, Ripples: A Memoir of Reflection.You can learn more about Diana and her books by visiting her website at https:www.womenofwordsrva.com.