How do you let go of past hurts and move on when you experience heartache or emotional pain? Often, just when we think we’ve gotten over it, the memories come rushing back in and we realize we had merely shoved the pain and discomfort under the carpet, without eliminating it.
It can also feel unnerving to realize how little control we appear to have over how we feel about events of the past. That’s where practical tools and time-tested spiritual wisdom offered by ancient seers can help us get past the hurt, or at least significantly loosen its grip over our hearts and minds. Holding on to the past can be a conscious decision but so also can moving forward be one.
Hurt is Part of Love
Ask yourself this question—who hurts you the most? The answer is likely to be parents, children, spouses, siblings, or close friends. Hurt is there wherever there is love—they go hand in hand. When you are in love, you are in a very delicate space; even just feeling like someone is ignoring you can hurt. Accepting pain and hurt as part of love will free you from this unnecessary suffering.
Global spiritual master, Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar shares a rather difficult-to-digest truth, “Nobody else can hurt you. Your own emotions entangle you and cause you pain. You get hurt because of your lack of awareness. Take charge of your own feelings rather than depending on anyone else for your happiness.”
Expectations Reduce Joy
We often burden our loved ones to feel the same way as we do or with our expectations, which may or may not be realistic. It helps to understand that expectations can often reduce our joy and that demand can destroy love. Expectations—whether met or unmet—lead to more expectations, making you prone to hurting all the time.
Analyze the Negatives
If someone hurts you by their speech, it helps to take a step back and question their reaction. Gurudev offers a powerful tip to overcome hurt of this nature—analyze a negative quality with your head and praise from all your heart.
“We exaggerate problems,” Gurudev shares. “If a mistake has been made or there is some suffering, some misery, we blow it up beyond its dimensions. If a few people get sick in town, we say, ‘everyone in town is sick. Everyone is always sick here.’ We exaggerate and eternalize problems. Many newspapers thrive on this exaggerated negativity, but if something beautiful happens, they want to see the facts. They want to look at it from their head rather than through the heart. We do the same thing, don’t we? We need to switch it around. When you see a negative quality in someone, analyze it. Why is this person being so negative? What is behind it? Reason it out. Don’t see negativity through the heart because then your heart becomes sore. Analysis of negativity brings out compassion in you. An exaggeration of some good brings waves of beauty in you.”
Stop Feeding Your Anger
The hurtful memories do not go away easily because we tend to revisit them again and again, without much awareness. You justify your anger and resentment and tend to impose the emotions you experienced back then, to a current life situation as well. This makes it difficult to break the loop of anger.
It helps to remember the one eternal truth, that the past no matter what it is, is dead and gone. The past is like a dream. And once you have turned that corner, you have the free will to not relive the past again and again. This may seem a little difficult to apply in life but no one else can do this for you; there is no magic pill that you can pop.
However, spiritual practices like meditation and breathwork go a long long way to help you live in present moment awareness more and more, so those past events lose their grip on your mind.
See Mistakes as Just That
Without holding onto whose mistake it was, see a mistake as just a mistake. This will help you culture a mind that is non-complaining and pleasant.
When you see a mistake as theirs, you place blame on someone and get angry at them. When you see a mistake as yours, you dive into guilt and self-flagellation. Just like you would like to be forgiven when you hurt someone, similarly—to save your mind—you can practice forgiving others who hurt you. This exercise allows you to retain peace of mind.
By holding anger and resentment against someone, you are unlikely to speed up their karmic process or make them realize the fact that they hurt you. It will only spoil your mind.
How can we remain positive and strong when people are hurting us? How do we love ourselves? Gurudev says, “Remember you are a diamond. When anybody tries to hurt you, they are only making you shine more. If anybody tries to bring your prestige down or insults you, they are only bringing up the best qualities that are hidden within you to the surface, to manifest. Remember, every insult is an opportunity for you to exhibit yourself—the beauty that you are!”
Karma Comes Around
The ways of karma are deep and mysterious. Once you know the cause behind every cause, then events, people, and their behavior tend not to affect your state of mind. It may be difficult to accept but the hurt you are feeling is your karma, for actions you may have done in this lifetime or past lifetimes—so say the laws of karma. Similarly, the ones who hurt you will go through their own karmic cycle in their own time.
It is also believed that when someone insults you or hurts you, they chip away your negative karma. So now, you have them to thank for hurting you because it is saving you from more suffering.
Become a witness to it and once you have removed your mind from the cloud of past impressions, you will see the hurt keeps moving away.
Nartak means dancer, and Atman means the self. This very beautiful sutra from the shiva sutras (a text of profound knowledge said to be shared by Lord Shiva, a Hindu deity, with his cohort Goddess Parvati) describes the whole world as a drama; the situations that happen in your life are nothing more than the scenes of a play.
Anger, sadness, misery—our emotions—are a part of our day-to-day life and they come and go. The problems begin when we start associating ourselves with these emotions. You need not sit and wait for the pain to disappear with the passage of time.
See everything as a play! You will instantly remember your own infinite existence and then such hurtful words and events will seem insignificant. See who you are—you are much more than this body and this intellect. This life is just a tiny event in the infinite space-time continuum.
Wake up and see that all the relationships, all the people in your life, are there for a specific period of time and that the only thing that is going to last forever is your eternal self. Expanding your awareness and looking at life from a broader perspective will bring you out of pain.
Meditation and other Spiritual Practices
It is said that sorrow is a sign that we have moved away from our center. The moment we regain our centeredness, we are able to witness the pain and be completely one with it. Feeling and knowing the pain totally helps you move through it.
Seers have repeated this truth again and again, that infinite joy and peace lie at the core of our being whereas sorrow, pain, and hurt are at the periphery. Psychologists are only now beginning to come to terms with this deeply transformative wisdom.
Once you start meditating, you will be able to witness all the pain and anger dissolve away. Meditation brings clarity of perception and expanded awareness. When we are in a balanced state of mind, we are able to see beyond others’ words and actions without getting caught up in them.
Dealing with Emotional Injuries
Setbacks, separation, physical or sexual abuse, violence, losing a loved one, a sense of failure, realizing one’s shortcomings, financial losses—these can all leave behind deep scars that fester. At worst, not healing them can lead to a vicious cycle of violence or self-harm, or affect your mental health, relationships, and social connections, making it impossible to lead a normal life.
When someone mistreats you, they do it because they may themselves be stressed and in need of help. In fact, people are often calling out for help in ways that seem like bad behavior.
It may be their unhappiness and wounds that are being projected on you. It helps to remember that people give you what they have. If you can see this, then it will quickly turn the anger and resentment into compassion and kindness. The ignorant ones demand your compassion and the wise ones don’t need it.
And if you can forgive someone else, then you can forgive yourself. Forgiveness and compassion, combined with the present moment, are the superpowers you already have inside to help you heal the hurt.