How To Let Go of Your Painful Past

By David Charon and Stephanie McPhail.

Do you feel like you’re trapped by your personal history?

You may be an “emotional hoarder”. What do we mean by this?

Think of your psyche, your mental and emotional “head space”, as your household. It’s where you store all the aspects of your life that have contributed to your personality.

For most of us, these include memories of the past that accumulate over time.

Memories of past pain and trauma that we haven’t let go of.

Nostalgia, memories of good times we’ve held onto, perhaps out of fear we’d never feel that good again.

As more of this mental and emotional clutter piles up, our pathways to navigate through our household become narrower and narrower.

Eventually, we may even become unable to access certain parts of the house. Rooms get filled to overflowing, and we stop going in them.

The areas where we feel comfortable and free in our space become smaller and smaller.

A nagging awareness of this disorganized chaos eats away at our peace of mind.

Seeking to acquire something that may ease our suffering, we bring in more trivial items.

We may try to turn our attention away from the growing burden of claustrophobia, largely ignoring the downward spiral. We might even sweep the clutter into a back room and board up the door, telling ourselves and others “everything’s fine!”

Our loved ones may plead with us to stop the madness, and try to help turn our lives around.

But because we’re so attached to our emotional investments, we hold onto them long after they’ve served any purpose.

We might be aware that this pattern is starting to crush our spirit, but the fear of losing our precious possessions is greater than the desire to be free.

Left unchecked, this unhealthy habit leads to complete loss of ourselves. We forget who we once were, underneath the mess our life has become.

How do I get help to move forward in my life?

Have you ever seen the show “hoarders”? Do you know someone like those featured on the show?

Imagine that’s you, and you’re contacted by the show’s producers. Through your anguish, you’re able to admit that you need help.

So they say “Okay, we’re going to send some people out.”

The therapist:

The first person they send out is a traditional talk-based therapist. They arrive at your house and glance around, exclaiming “you’ve got a lot of stuff here!” Taking out their pencil and pad, they invite you to sit on the couch, the one remaining place you have to put your feet up.

“Where do you want to begin?” they might ask.

“Might as well start with that big pile over there”, you say. “The one labeled ‘mommy/daddy issues.’”

“Great!” they respond. Taking the first item off the top of the pile, they ask “what’s this?”

Maybe you tell them that’s a memory of abuse and neglect as a little child. They ask how that made you feel, and you tell them it made you feel small, fearful, unsafe and unimportant.

“How has that affected your adult life?” they ask. You tell them you’ve been unable to trust yourself and others, you don’t take chances in life, and you secretly loathe yourself. “Great work” they say, “let’s put that here in a ‘childhood trauma’ file.”

They proceed to take the next item off the pile, and as you begin to repeat the process, they interrupt: “okay, times up, that’s 45 minutes, I’ll see you at the same time next week?” They come back next week, and continue the process.

Weeks, months and years may go by. Eventually most of your clutter is neatly organized into piles of files. You may have gained insight and understanding into how your life got screwed up, but where are you? You’re still in the mess.

The guru:

So imagine the next person to come out is a positive thinking new age self-help guru. “Namaste!” they say as they greet you. Pointing to a pile of toxic garbage on the floor, they ask “what’s that?”

“Oh, that represents my ex” you tell them. “He came into my life, dumped his garbage and left, and it’s been stinking up the place ever since.”

“Oh, no problem, I’ve got this lovely hand-woven area rug from Peru, we’ll just cover that up.”

Then they point out some holes in your walls. You tell them that represents your bitterness, anger and resentment. “No problem, we’ll cover those up. I’ve got some nice motivational posters, ‘hang in there, baby!’”

“It smells pretty bad in here” they say, “but let’s light some incense, that’s better! And sure, it’s a little cluttered, but let’s clear a space to the window, and look out at that clear blue sky, isn’t that wonderful?”

For a moment, you may feel a little better, but before long you realize “something still stinks!”

What to do when traditional methods to heal don’t work?

Maybe you’ve tried traditional therapy to gain understanding of how you got here, or read books and watched inspirational videos looking for creative ways to cope, but none of those things has actually helped you to change at a deep level and start a new, better chapter in your life.

Think back to the show, “hoarders”. What’s the solution when your possessions have accumulated into a crushing mass? Clean house!

So imagine now a third person comes out to your house, who’s known as a PSYCH-K® facilitator. A highly trained specialist in energy psychology, a method of high-speed mindset reprogramming, they ask what’s going on in your life that you most want to change.

Your only remaining option is to be brutally honest. “Well, I’ve tried therapy to understand how I got so screwed up, and even books, videos and support groups trying to cope with my pain, but they haven’t worked. I don’t even know who I am anymore underneath all this mess! I’ve just been praying for something that’s actually going to work.”

You might even be able to admit you realize that all this clutter served a purpose in the past of helping you feel safe, important, and loved, but you feel stuck and desperate for real change.

“Well,” they say, “I’ve brought you some tools. I’ve got a pair of work gloves, a shovel, a wheelbarrow, and there’s a dumpster parked out by the curb. The process is very simple: roll up your sleeves, put on the gloves for protection, grab an armload of stuff, carry it out and drop it in the dumpster. Then just keep doing that until you feel better.”

“Surely it couldn’t be that easy,” you think to yourself. Sensing your hesitance, your facilitator reminds you “as you’re picking up your painful past, it may be uncomfortable for a few seconds. You might even be tempted to put it back where it was, but just stay in the process; this clutter doesn’t serve you anymore, and it’s your time now to get rid of it. Just put one foot in front of the other, and keep going until you notice a shift in your energy.”

So with the faith of a mustard seed, you begin. The first pile is heavy, and perhaps you struggle and sweat a bit as you carry it out and dump it. “Whew!” The second pile has jagged corners and as you embrace the feelings that come up, the tears flow. Resisting nothing, you dump it. “Whew!” The third pile may be a wet, stinking pile of toxic garbage, memories of past trauma that make you nauseated. You persist, and in a few more seconds, you dump it. “Whew!”

Before long, you start to notice a shift in your energy. It may be physical: muscle tension spontaneously shifting to relaxation. It may be emotional: you have a big, ugly cry that’s suddenly replaced with a feeling of peaceful non-attachment. It may be mental: the chattering voices of your abusers are suddenly replaced by the voice of wisdom, and you have that “aha!” moment, finally recognizing your value and worthiness, and that it’s safe and appropriate to let go once and for all.

You may notice a smile forms on your face, and a giggle escapes your lips. You feel at peace, even with the awareness of what once was. You feel a sense of wholeness and a return to yourself. You have freed your mind!


We suffer for our attachments, and our inability to let go of the past, good bad and ugly. Our perceived need to cling, to hold on, is a function of subconscious programs that we mistakenly believed were serving our greater good at some point. Conscious insight and understanding via therapy and superficial coping mechanisms are seldom sufficient to create real, lasting change. When we rely on those methods alone, we often continue to backslide and self-sabotage, feeling like we have one foot on the gas and one on the brake.

It’s been said that pain is natural, but suffering is pain we choose to hold onto. Because that choice is usually made at the subconscious level, we may not be aware that we’re our own greatest enemy. When beginning the process of transmuting our emotional “lead” into “gold”, it’s helpful to give ourselves the gift of compassion and non-judgment. When we’re open and curious, our higher selves can guide us to the elevated state of being where we’re aligned with our true nature, which is to thrive and to move toward love.

You are worthy, deserving and capable of creating and attracting all the best that life and love have to offer. If you don’t presently have that experience, perhaps it’s time to clean house. Not only will you eliminate the stifling toxicity in your environment, you’ll be creating space to receive new, joyful abundance in every area of your life.

In addition to being a regular contributor to the #1 Online Magazine For Codependency Recovery, Stephanie and her husband David are a husband and wife coaching team who specialize in helping professional women with the guidance, support and tools to break the cycle of toxic relationships, end self-sabotage and become the best version of themselves, so they can create and attract the best that life and love have to offer. David is a preferred PSYCH-K® facilitator who has helped hundreds of clients around the world for over 10 years to recognize their divinity, discover their greatness, and become the peace they seek. Learn more at

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