Physically, we might have moved on but emotionally, have we carried forward some of the emotional baggage that are attached to some previous unpleasant experiences?
You might think that you've forgotten about or are no longer bothered by those unpleasant experiences because out of sight, out of mind...until someone's casual remark; a scene or a physical object have those emotions gushing up and reminds you that the past in fact still haunts you.
Trying to avoid them won't make them go away. In fact, avoidance often serves to reinforce them.
When you can face up to your unpleasant past with little or no angst or hurt, that's when you are healing or have already healed.
To truly start afresh, you need to first let go of the old baggage
Try writing down - unplanned, unorganized and unedited - all those feelings that you have suppressed...the source of hurts; disappointments; shame; regrets; unfulfilled expectations etc.
Be brutally honest with yourself - don't self-censor your thoughts & emotions. It's therefore best that you write this somewhere with no one else present so that you feel safe to express yourself truthfully. As a form of catharsis, have a good bawling or venting session...let all those bottled and unprocessed feelings out...
Then challenge them one by one. For example,
- If you were the subject of verbal abuses and have internalised them, ask yourself: are those words facts or just the abuser's personal opinions based on their upbringing and experiences, which may be flawed/ biased/ incorrect? Usually, abusers have issues with themselves but they tend to project them onto someone else.
- If you feel like a misfit or failure, ask yourself: who is to decide that you need to accomplish this and that by a certain time or to behave this way and not that, and that non-conformers must definitely lead worst lives than conformers? There is no lack of outliers who enjoy enormous successes and their paths were never one straight line.
- If you feel that you have let yourself or your loved ones down because you didn't fulfil your own or their expectations of you, ask yourself: what's the motivation behind those expectations? If the motivation is to have a happy and successful life, is there only one path that leads to it?
Create new experiences; write brand new chapters
Today if there were no conditions to your life and memory of your past, who do you want to be and what kind of life do you want? The old chapters belong to the past - close and archive them. Give yourself the permission to start with a clean slate and live the life that you truly want. Tear down the prison that you have locked yourself in.
Visualise yourself physically putting down the old baggage and turning to a bright new path...it's open and welcoming yet also so unfamiliar and hence a little unnerving. Ditch your need to feel safe and certain. Instead, be open to adventures and possibilities.
Go ahead, create new experiences according to your new-found self - as your experiences change, so would your perceptions and emotions. Feel free to re-evaluate and re-calibrate your directions when necessary.
Be prepared to suffer a few setbacks at the outset as the beginning is always the toughest but always remind yourself that they are part of your learning and growth process. And at the end of the process, you would have emerged a stronger, more authentic and happier person.