How to stop the past hijacking the present

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Past hijacking present

When you’ve suffered heartbreak and loss it can be difficult to move forward into a positive new relationship without being haunted by the past. But it is possible to break free and forge a bright future. Lee Pycroft explains how

The emotional hangover from an experience of past heartbreak or loss can often lead us to react to a date or partner differently. Any hint of a behaviour or situation that triggers a painful memory can catapult us into a reactive state, which leads us to behave in unhelpful or unpredictable ways.

Intimate relationships take courage. In the dance towards creating a meaningful bond, we can bump up against some of our greatest vulnerabilities and fears. In a bid to avoid pain we end up closing our hearts to a truly intimate and loving relationship.

Healing from any past relationship takes time, but it we get to a place where our past is dominating the present – and our thoughts and emotions are trapping us in the safe zone – then it’s time to act.

How can we stay open to what is in front of us and break old patterns that hijack our emotions and prevent us from creating the relationship we deserve?

Try these five steps to help create emotional clarity and freedom:

1. Shift your story

It’s not uncommon to keep retelling a story from your past, reliving all the details each time. This can further embed the negative emotion and memory of the past. The words you speak generate an emotional response and recycling old hurts keeps them alive and present. If the past starts playing out in your head ask yourself, ‘What do I need to believe to let go?’ and ‘Who do I need to become so that I can be open to the possibility of a loving partnership again?’ Be aware of the language you’re using. What are you telling yourself and is it’s opening you up to possibilities or closing you down? Awareness allows you to start understanding your emotional reactions and gain a broader perspective of your own behaviour and that of others.

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2. Create healthy rituals

The rituals you create impact on who you become and the emotions you feel. Where do you reside most? Are you routinely experiencing joy and gratitude, or sadness, resentment and anger? You can’t make old wounds go away by rejecting people and withholding affection and love. It’s only by accepting what is and developing rituals that help to energise and elevate you that you can start to negate limiting emotional patterns. Try spending 10 minutes a day going on a quiet internal search for what is working in your life. Focus on all the past successes and current resources that you have. Apply an empowering meaning to your past and embrace all that you have now.

3. Mentally rehearse success

Our imaginations are problem-solving machines. Think of all the dreams you’ve had that have become reality. Perhaps it was a job you wanted, a car, or the solution to an on-going issue. This also works the other way; the time you spend catastrophising about how bad things are going to be will have a detrimental impact on your wellbeing. It’s also a blatant misuse of your imagination! Mentally rehearsing the feelings you’d like to evoke on a date, and the behaviour you’d like to embody in a relationship, will help the unfamiliar become familiar. You can help yourself wipe away any old unhelpful feelings and start visualising the future you. It’s all about recognising what’s within your control and being accountable for bringing the necessary trust, love, respect and passion into your way of being.

4. Hold that thought

Emotional reactions can happen so quickly that we’re often caught up in them before we even realise it. This is how misunderstandings often happen in dating and relationships – our brains match our date’s behaviour to a past event that has caused pain. Consequently, strong emotions cause us to think in black and white, rather than being able to see a situation objectively. Being aware of thought patterns and behaviours when you’re triggered allows conscious thought to loop back round so you can press the pause button. This will create the space needed to determine whether distorted memories are polluting the present. It’ll also give you time to respond in a way that enables a more open and meaningful exchange.

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5. Assume your date’s positive intent

It’s easy to take things personally and project our own meaning onto another person’s behaviour. It’s also tempting to replay the past and use it to predict the future, retreating into a fearful place. If we assume the other person has a positive intent, it can help create some separation between their actions and any impact they may have on us. We can’t control other people, but we can influence them through our own behaviour and by knowing what’s our emotional load and what’s theirs. Remember, sometimes the pain of our past can provide the contrast that leads us to truly appreciating somebody new.

Lee Pycroft is widely known for her work as a makeup artist for the world’s A list celebrities. Realising beauty and makeup had a role to play in self-care and self-esteem she re-trained as a coach and therapist focusing on aligning the inner and outer self. She runs her own practice specialising in relationships, self-esteem and recovering from heartbreak. 

Lee also holds a number of charitable roles to support people in challenging circumstances via makeovers and self-care.  Find out more about Lee’s work at www.leepycroft.co.uk, follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @leepycroft


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