How Do We Release the Past?

Joyce Shafer

Joyce L. Shafer

How often we hear that it’s important and freeing to release the past. But, how exactly do we do that? If doing this hasn’t been easy for you, maybe this will help.

I’ve recently written about thoughts that have come to me from Catherine Ponder’s book, The Secret to Unlimited Prosperity, which as I stated before, isn’t solely about prosperity. This is because prosperity is not just about money; it’s about health, well-being, personal and professional relationships, success, and more. This means that thoughts of lack about any one of these will more than likely affect one or more of the others, as well as the big picture of your life. It’s just like when you’re unwell or tired: you aren’t as proficient and efficient as when you’re well and rested. Where do thoughts of lack originate from? Only one place that I can think of: the past. For a better now and future, you must stop living in and based on the past, and begin to live where and when you are: now.

I’ve included segments from Ponder’s book in previous writings, but a few of them are so significant to releasing the past, I’m going to provide them again according to how I add personal meaning to them. Ponder stated that those who have released the past and have accepted mentally the possibility of good are those who get results. First of all, that’s like the chicken and the egg to me. Do you first release the past so that you can mentally accept the possibility of good or does this happen the other way around? Perhaps they happen in gradual measure simultaneously. Doing one should certainly result in the other, whichever order they happen in; maybe you bounce back and forth between the two. However, this is not something to focus on; I just find it interesting to give it a glimpse. It’s more important to do both, no matter the order or process.

Ponder asked, “Are you so attached to old patterns of living that you cannot get along comfortably without them? Are you emotionally attached to lack and illness?” If we hang on to the past and or thoughts of lack in any area of our life that happened or originated in the past, we are attached to that way of thinking, like it or not. Well, ouch. So, perhaps say instead, “I now attach myself to improved circumstances and thoughts about this. I now attach myself to abundance, prosperity, and well-being and thoughts about this. I am no longer hypnotized by appearances, especially from the past. I now mentally accept better circumstances as mine and my right.”

She also asked (and here, I add some words of my own), If you truly want abundance, prosperity, and well-being, do you still gain satisfaction from self-pity over your health, well-being, and finances? You must give up something to make way for health, well-being, and prosperity—probably self-pity and bitterness; probably the belief that you have had a hard time. Again: ouch. Let’s face it: There will be times when we feel sorry for ourselves, but that’s different than taking up residence in self-pity land. And, okay, I can hear, and I completely understand from my own experiences, anyone grousing about that last part she said. What the hell does she mean by calling the fact of a hard time or times in the past a belief?! One contemporary premise says you can change your perception about anything (reframe). This is true, but I offer there’s something else involved. I’ll get to that.

We know that we can’t actually release the past—because it no longer exists! Yes, in some instances, there may be physical scars from one or more events that happened in the past, but they are, usually, healed as much as they’ll ever be, unless they’re still in the healing stage. So, we’re really looking at emotional scars. But what is an emotional scar? It can’t be seen. We can’t take medication for an emotional scar (meds may do some things about emotions or mood, but not what we’re ultimately looking for which is natural freedom from their chokehold on us). We can’t physically find emotional scars so that we can put a balm on them; so the only place an emotional scar exists is in our memory.

What is memory? Let’s consider the fact that every single thing you’ve ever seen, heard, tasted, smelled, felt, sensed, and experienced is even now holding a space in your mind’s library called Memory. This means to experience a memory, you or an outside trigger has to activate it, like pulling up a song on an iPod. So, to experience a memory, you have to deliberately bring to mind or continue to think, once a thought arises, about something that’s not happening now or has happened yet, but that has already happened. Some emotional scars may require time and even therapy to assist with healing; but eventually, to be free of their effects (not their memory), we have to alter how we think about them and how often. Do we reflect on them at times or do we allow them to control us?

Practice a thought often enough or with enough emotional attachment and it becomes a belief. A belief is nothing more than a thought you abide by and practice. No thought, no belief. Simply put, you can’t have a belief without a thought that supports or nurtures it: Ponder used the correct word. I know you already know all of this; but it takes more than realizing it if you’re to release the past: this has to be put into practice.

Now, the ego-aspect may have a problem with all of this because ego tends toward black-and-white thinking, such as, “If I’m to release the past, then that means I have to act as if or somehow convince myself that what happened never happened or wasn’t as bad as I’ve thought.” See what I mean? That’s a totally unrealistic approach and mindset (spiritual comprehension and resolution can shift perspective about something that happened, but not ego-aspect); yet, the ego-aspect will try to take us into that contradictory experience. And if we don’t go there, the ego-aspect will take us on a guilt-trip instead.

The only things about this that you can actually release are your thoughts in the present about the past. And, in fact, you don’t release them: you just don’t entertain them when they come up, and they will. Nor do you dredge them up on purpose. Sure, if a thought about something from the past rises to the surface, maybe you should give it a look, maybe ask questions about this. Maybe there’s a significant message there that’s to help you right now or in the future. But maybe it’s a neuronal pathway that’s been triggered, and the ego-aspect has slipped an old, scratched album onto the turntable of your mind (any of you reading this too young to know what a turntable is, please look it up on your favorite i-Product).

Negative thoughts about the past do something unpleasant: They cause the body, mind, and emotions to feel as though whatever it is we think about is happening again—right now. Down goes our mood. Down goes our health. Down goes our energy. Down goes our enthusiasm. Down goes our ability to attract more of what we truly desire. Down—We—Go…into a form of mental constipation. What we need to realize is that such thoughts “rob us of today’s happiness,” as Ernest Holmes wrote. Or as author Rebecca L. Norrington asks in her book, RealitySpirituality: The Truth About Happiness, if something detracts from your happiness, why do it? There’s more to it than that, but you get her point. A lot of what detracts from our happiness is self-inflicted.

It’s obvious that the way we release the past so it stops impinging on our present and future experience is to mentally accept that different, better circumstances are possible and our right. Then we entertain those thoughts, and do so from a place of inner serenity, as much as we can, and cease entertaining any opposing thoughts about this (by entertaining, I mean inviting a thought in and feeding it as you would a guest). This never means that we ignore what should be addressed and adjusted. It means we give up the habit or addiction of dwelling on what we’d call the crappy stuff that came before this moment.

If what happened taught you something, that’s terrific. But sitting in a steaming pile of it over and over again without at least growing one flower in its center is a waste of life force and attracts more of the same or worse, AND it causes you to feel bad (reread the parts about attachment to self-pity and being too comfortable in that place). It’s also obvious that we must pay attention to triggers that cause us to travel down rutted roads yet again and, instead, deliberately take the high road. If you’re fully occupied with and committed to traveling the higher road, you’ll be looking ahead to where you’re going, not back at where you’ve been. It’s a good practice, one you’ll appreciate.

Practice makes progress.

© Joyce L. Shafer

You are welcome to use this article in your newsletter or on your blog/website as long as you use my complete bio with it.

Joyce L. Shafer is a Life Empowerment Coach dedicated to helping people feel, be, and live their true inner power. She’s author of “I Don’t Want to be Your Guru, But I Have Something to Say” and other books/e-books, and publishes a free weekly online newsletter that offers empowering articles. See all that’s offered by Joyce and on her site at


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