How To Make Peace With Your Past

How To Make Peace With Your Past

It’s a fact of life – we all have a past, and no one’s is perfect. But just as looking back can help us positively shape the future, holding onto certain negative experiences can have a limiting effect. Here, psychotherapeutic counsellor and life coach Chanelle Sowden shares five reasons to make peace with your past, along with her advice on how to let go of memories that no longer serve you…

1. Holding Onto The Past Can Limit Your Positive Experiences

Making negative generalisations from one-off, or very specific, experiences can indicate you’re unnecessarily limiting potentially joyful experiences. Using grandiose words like ‘always’ and ‘never’ when talking about something can be a tell-tale sign you’re applying a too generalised rule to something. Look around and see if others are having a different, more positive experience of something that you have written off? 

2. It Can Put Stress On Your Body & Mind

Just as our past can remind and inform our thoughts of something unpleasant our nervous system can also be reminded. In fact, our body can react the same to the thought of unpleasant stimulus as it can to actual stimulus. If something from your past is causing you to feel guilt, shame, regret or anger regularly you are putting unnecessary stress on your body and keeping it in a prolonged tense state which is not good for your health or mindset.

3. It Can Negatively Impact Your Future

Research shows that past experiences can negatively impact our future in a variety of ways, however if you have come to understand these experiences and make sense of them you are much less likely to suffer from them, recreate them or re-experience them.

4. It Can Affect Those Around You

Holding on to unpeaceful elements of your past can be hard for those around you. We all come with a past but if you’re projecting too much negative behaviour onto a current partner, friend, boss or co-worker, it can be very damaging to the friendship or relationship and it’s less likely to blossom into something supportive.

5. It Can Help You Learn Valuable Lessons

Many uncomfortable experiences in our past can be viewed in a more helpful way. The times we didn’t receive the love we’d hoped for from someone, or we experienced a trauma, loss or failure can be our greatest teachers. They can be the very thing that make us stronger, more understanding or allows us to decide what we don’t want to do, be like or be a part of. Our pain can also offer us the opportunity to learn about healing and this is an invaluable skill to have and help others with in life.

Chanelle Snowden’s tips for making peace with your past…

Identify the issue: While some negative experiences fade over time and some don’t trigger us very much to begin with, we can also struggle with issues that just don’t seem to go away. Perhaps they keep getting brought up or repeated in similar patterns leaving us thinking ‘Why does this keep happening to me?’.
Revisit it: It may seem counterintuitive, but in order to heal, sometimes you have to revisit those painful memories. It sounds like a cliché, but sometimes you really can’t avoid, ignore or run from experiences that have impacted you in negatively, and the best way to find peace in these times is to turn around, face it and deal with it.
Get your feelings out: Revisiting something in your past can feel overwhelming and unappealing, so it’s important you feel safe and supported as you do it. Talking about it with the person involved, a friend or a professional is one of the most direct ways to revisit the experience.
Reframe the situation: Another helpful tool can be to journal or write about it – the goal here is to enhance your understanding of the situation and find a new way to reframe what happened in a more positive way. Having a greater understanding of something can open us up to feeling more forgiveness, safety or awareness and is one of the most useful tools when we’re feeling stuck.
Remember, the past can’t always predict the future: When we touch something hot and hurt ourselves we mentally log it and work to not do it again – in this way, it makes good sense that we remember them for learning and survival. But, the reality is, not everything in our past is this black and white; and our past cannot perfectly predict our future. You have the power to make a change.
For more advice on improving your life, or to speak to Chanelle, visit

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