Letting Go of the Story
by Diane Linsley

One of the biggest problems that many people have is they are
stuck in their own story. Every time we tell our story in the same
way, we experience the same emotions. Why do we do this?

I believe that we are reluctant to let go of the story because we
are afraid that we will forget what happened in the past, and then
it might happen again. Basically, we are afraid of memory loss.

We keep the memory fresh by practicing remembering. The more
we practice, the stronger the neural pathways become - like ruts
in a dirt road where cars have gone over the same path many times.

The Price of Remembering

Remembering past trauma might make us more vigilant, but there's
a price to pay. When someone hurts us, it happens at a moment
in time. After that, it's no longer happening. But if we are afraid it might happen again, we will replay the incident in our minds over and over. It's like getting hurt repeatedly.

When I was young, my grandma often told me stories of her marital abuse. When she lost her memory due to Alzheimer's disease, she suddenly became a very happy person. She didn't recognize any of her family, which was probably a good thing, but she was as cheerful as a child without a care in the world. Finally, she was free of the past. 

Narcissistic abuse causes damage to the hippocampus - the part of the brain that is involved with memories. Could my grandma's dementia have been caused by abuse?

How would her life have been different if she had been able to drop the story sooner and live in the present moment - without having to lose her mind? Happiness can only be experienced in the present moment, as spiritual teachers like Eckhart Tolle remind us.

If you suspect that you or someone in your life has brain damage from narcissistic abuse, I recommend studying the work of Dr. Daniel Amen. His protocols for repairing brain damage include diet, exercise, supplements, and mental exercises.

Dr. Amen also recommends Holosync meditation. I've been doing Holosync since 2007, and it has helped me tremendously.

Processes for Letting Go

Here are some of my favorite processes for letting go of negative thoughts, feelings and memories.

Deep Breathing - When breathing in, imagine filling up the lower belly, then the chest, and finally, the head. When breathing out, just relax and let the breath go naturally. Don't push it out. Breathe through the nose, not the mouth. This calms the nervous system. I do this for 10 minutes every morning before I get out of bed. It energizes me and starts my day on a positive note.

Accepting/Releasing - As you breathe in, think the word "accepting." As you breathe out, think the word "releasing." Continue breathing like this until you experience a shift or a feeling of release.

Other breathing techniques that may be helpful are Box Breathing and the Wim Hof Method.

EFT, energy work or massage therapy to release emotions from the physical body.

Tonglen meditation to replace suffering with self-compassion.

Delete the Picture - This is a process for letting go of a specific memory. Start by creating a picture in your mind that represents the memory. Visualize it clearly. Then turn the picture black and white (instead of color), shrink it to the size of a postage stamp, and move it off to the side and far away so it's no longer in the center of your visual field. How does this feel? Next, imagine throwing it into the ocean or incinerating it with a torch. Try different things until you find what works for you.

Another way to deal with a negative story is to turn it positive. That way, whenever it resurfaces, the charge will be neutral or positive. Try these techniques:

Gratitude Process

Retell the story with a positive spin, as described in Coping with Chronic Illness.

Emotional Healing Process

This is a process I teach to clients who are dealing with emotional issues. I recommend practicing it for 15 to 30 minutes each day. If you do it consistently, you will eventually train your brain to process emotions and move into positive thinking automatically.

When I do this process myself, I sit on a special chair. Next to the chair is a small table with a lamp, notebook and pen. My teddy bear is also there, so I have someone to hold and talk to. Sometimes I play soft music in the background. I've found that certain songs help me process certain emotions.

Here are the steps:

1. Name the emotion (fear, anger, sadness, etc.)

2. Write down the emotion, and give it an intensity rating on a scale of 1-10.

3. Take a few minutes to write your thoughts. Start by writing, "I feel (sad, angry, etc.) because...."

4. If fear is not the first emotion that comes up, you may want to address it, too. Fear often underlies other emotions. Write, "I'm afraid that...."

5. Process the emotions using the breathing techniques (above), along with EFT or Tonglen. Work on only one emotion at a time. When dealing with shame, which is a complex emotion, break it down into its component parts, which are fear, anger and sadness. Work on each of these separately.

6. Self-soothe. Write or speak to yourself out loud as if you are a parent soothing a child. For example, "You will be okay. You are a good, kind and smart person. Even though you are having a difficult time, I love you unconditionally. You can do this." This is compassionate self-talk.

7. Shift from past to future: "Here's what I can do now to improve my situation." This shifts you into the part of the brain that thinks positively and is focused on taking action to create a better future. Write down one small thing you can do today for self-compassion.

Pay close attention to your body as you are doing each of the steps. Where do you feel the emotion? Notice how your energy shifts throughout the session. When you finish the process, look back at what you wrote on the paper, and see how much your vibration has changed.

Retest your emotional state and rate your feelings on a scale of 1-10. If there's still some intensity, you may want to go through the process again. 

It's important to actually do this process, not just read about it :) This is a powerful process, and I want you to experience it. 

After doing the process, you can drop the story, knowing that you can come back to the process later.

I did this process every day for 6 months when I was recovering from narcissistic abuse. Once my brain was trained, it began going through all the steps automatically whenever I felt a negative emotion.

Make a Permanent Record

Once your story is on paper, you don't have to worry about forgetting. Most of the time, I throw the paper away once the feelings are neutralized. But I still have some papers from the grieving process that I went through during my divorce. Here's why:

I knew that if I didn't have a written record of what happened, I would try to keep the memories alive in my mind as a way of preventing myself from going back to my ex-husband. I have a tendendy to forgive and forget too easily, which can be a problem for abuse victims.

I also needed to have the memories in writing so I wouldn't later think that getting divorced was a mistake. I suffered from cognitive dissonance while being married to a pathological liar, and it nearly drove me insane. I couldn't trust myself to think clearly or remember accurately.

I was going through my notebook the other day, and I read what I wrote back then. I was appalled at what I used to put up with. I certainly have better boundaries and more assertiveness now.

These days, I mostly remember the good times in my marriage. In fact, I sometimes wonder why I got divorced. Having a written record reminds me to never go back. I don't have to worry about forgetting, and I don't have to retell the same story over and over. 

Follow Your Passion

The best way to leave the past behind is to follow your passion. Whatever you focus on grows. Over time, your brain remodels in order to function better at whatever tasks you work on every day, as explained in The Mind & The Brain by Jeffrey M. Schwartz.

This works both ways. I know someone who has lived her whole life rehashing the past every single day. Her mind is a steel trap for memories. She remembers everything in vivid detail because that's what she practices doing. I dread seeing her because she only sees my past self, not who I am today.

Happy people live in the present and look forward to the future. I believe that when you are following your passion, it's nearly impossible to get derailed by a narcissist. Even if it happens for a brief time, you would exit the situation quickly in order to continue following your passion.

I've coached many clients who experienced abuse in the past, and I've noticed that the ones who don't get better lack a sense of purpose. Many of them gave up their careers, hobbies, and even the care of their own bodies because they were focused on pleasing the narcissist. When the relationship was over, there was nothing to live for because they had failed to create a life worth living.

If you don't have a passion, create one! This is your life. No one can live it for you. As you focus on your passion, your brain will naturally let go of the past as it develops in the direction of your goals. When you are truly passionate about something, you will find a way to succeed, and no one can stop you.

Why Let Go of the Past?

"Hurt people hurt people. Healed people heal people."

I learned about vicarious trauma in this video by a therapist who became extremely ill from listening to trauma stories every day. Your recovery is essential to your own happiness, as well as the happiness of everyone in your life.

Life goes by so quickly. No matter how difficult our circumstances are, there's always something we can do in the present moment, which is the only time in which we can act.

One of my favorite books is Yes to Life: In Spite of Everything by Viktor E. Frankl, who survived four years in the Nazi concentration camps. This inspiring book helped me clarify my own life purpose.

If you want to go deeper into discovering your life purpose, I recommend reading Destiny of Souls: New Case Studies of Life Between Lives by Michael Newton. He was a hypnotherapist who helped people remember their experiences in the spirit world. This book changed my map of reality and helped me get in touch with my soul's reason for being here.

Here's a song to help you connect with the joy and freedom that comes from letting go.

Here's a guided meditation for healing relationships.

Be well,
Diane Linsley

As a life coach, I use many different processes to help
people with their personal growth. Click here if you are
interested in coaching with me.

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letting go of the story