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Tiny Wisdom: On Letting Go of Painful Stories

“The past has no power to stop you from being present now. Only your grievance about the past can do that.” -Eckhart Tolle

Today I read that Elizabeth Smart, who was kidnapped in 2002, is going to join ABC as a correspondent, covering missing persons.

In case you haven’t followed this case, Elizabeth was only 14 when Brian David Mitchell abducted her from her Salt Lake City home. Her parents had previously hired the homeless man for a day’s work, something they did often to help people who were down on their luck. And yet for nine months he hid Elizabeth, subjecting her to daily cruelty.

In response to her new position, ABC News spokeswoman Julie Townsend said, “…her contributions will be focused on looking ahead, not looking back at her own story.”

As I read this, I thought about how easy it would be for her to let that story define her and her life. People have done it with far less traumatic events.

She could wake up every day bitter and guarded. She could take comfort in a victim identity, expecting other people to take care of her. She could rehash what happened over and over again to anyone would listen–and we would understand. After all, she’s been through so much.

But when you focus on all the bad things you’ve been through, it’s nearly impossible to recognize when you’re going through something good. It’s even more challenging to create something good with what you have.

The stories we tell and wrap our lives around can easily limit who we become if we let them. The alternative is to let go of that pain identity. To stop dwelling on how you’ve been hurt. To decide that, right now, you have choices, and you’re not going to let your fear and anger make them for you.

Today if you find yourself rehashing a painful past, remember: It may help to talk things through, but if you want to experience real happiness, at some point, you need to let go.

Photo by JapanDave

About Lori Deschene

Lori Deschene is the founder of Tiny Buddha. She’s also the author of Tiny Buddha’s Gratitude Journal and other books and co-founder of Recreate Your Life Story, an online course that helps you let go of the past and live a life you love. For daily wisdom, join the Tiny Buddha list here. You can also follow Tiny Buddha on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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