Ask Erin: How do I let go of my past?

Question:  I grew up with a mother who was manipulative and verbally abusive with me.  I feel as though my bad chilldhood has had terrible repercussions in my adult life.  Do you have any suggestions or words of encouragement on how to let go of your past so that it no longer affects your present or future growth? – Nina

Answer: I had some things occur in my own past that would be considered really horrible; the type of things that are really hard to get past and get over.  But I’ve learned how and I’m so glad to be able to share what I’ve learned so that it might help you too.

There are two ways:

The first is to find some value, some meaning, in what happened to you.  Maybe it taught you something.  Or maybe it has actually helped you in some way.  Perhaps there was some lesson for you to learn.  Perhaps you had to go through what you did so you could help others avoid it or deal with it. 

The second way is to try to understand why it happened.  Perhaps your mother had low self-esteem.  Perhaps she was the victim of abuse growing up.  Perhaps she just knew no other way to be a parent.  Perhaps she was just a scared little girl inside and was so desperate for you to love her that she was verbally abusive and manipulative so she could get some control in her life.

In either case, you must realize, it had little to do with you.  Feel pity, but don’t feel guilt.  Feel compassion, but don’t feel responsible for her treatment of you.  Acknowledge that maybe she just didn’t know how to be a good parent and forgive her for it.  Accept that you didn’t have the perfect mother.

The next thing to do is ask yourself how you want to be right now.  Do you want to continue being a victim of your upbringing or do you want to break free and be the person you truly want to be?  You must decide to live your life as you want from this day forward.  The past is gone, it cannot be re-written, but it can be understood and forgiven.  It’s your choice whether you want to do this.  But forgiving her will help you move on.

Try saying this to yourself, “It’s a shame I grew up with a mom who was manipulative and verbally abusive.  I’m sad that I didn’t have a mother who could show me love in a kinder way.  However, from this day forward, I will live my life as I choose.  I will be the person I want to be.”

And the healing will begin.

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