Now today’s tip comes from a reader question, and this is Alice. And Alice wrote in and asked, “Doug, what do I do to clean up something in my past, something that’s been bothering me and just kind of feel like it’s holding me back. What’s something I can do when I can no longer talk to that person?”
So Alice goes on to share a lot more information in her question and this person happens to be somebody, it’s a family member who passed away and she feels like it’s holding her back. So, how does she clean that up? How does she clear the air there? And it’s a great question and something that’s talked about often.
One simple task you can do, and this goes for all of us, oftentimes there are people in our lives that have hurt us or have wronged us in some way, or at least, that’s the way we feel, or we’ve wronged them, but they’ve passed on, they’ve moved on, one way or the other. Either we can’t find them because we’ve just lost contact. We’ve done our due diligence, we’ve looked on social media, email, contact friends and tried to reach out to clean up our past.
Or two, they’ve passed on, passed away. And so we also can’t speak with them there directly. So what can you do to clean that up, because it is really important? And what she’s talking about here is it weighs on us, right? We take this negative energy and this energy of regret, of hurt and blame and really what we’re doing is playing a victim role and when we play a victim role, you’re not allowed to be the author of your own story or you’re not allowing yourself to be the author of your own story, because really, you’re blaming somebody else. You’re saying outside circumstances are in control and I’m not.
And that is not the key. To my knowledge, it’s impossible to be the author of your own story and blame others, rather than taking full action. But how do you do that? How do you clean it up when you can’t have a conversation with somebody? Well, one way you can do it is writing a letter.
You know, going back and just writing a very simple letter, and so writing it to this person, so I’m not going to mention who the person you mentioned and what happened is because I think that’ll call you out and a lot of people will know who you are, and I don’t want to do that to you, but I want to answer your question, so I’m gonna make up a story.
So, let’s just say I had an issue with my sister. Now, I don’t have a sister, so it’s an easy one for me to use. But my sister passed away and maybe I blamed her for something she said or did in my childhood. And this is a common thing that happens. So, you create a story … this happened, and therefore, I made it mean something.
What I would do is I’d write a letter out to her. Let’s call her Sue. And we’d say, “Dear Sue, hope you’re doing well. Back when I was 10 years old, you stole all my toys and burnt them all and then you beat me up all the time,” or I don’t know, I’m making this up, and it’s really hard for me to make it up on the fly, because I’m really trying hard not to use the reader’s example, which is tough, because it’s in the forefront of my mind.
But what you want to do is you want to write that letter and then take responsibility, so it could be something along the lines of responsibility like, “I no longer hold you accountable for that in my actions and my life and the way that I took it. Yeah, you burnt my toys and that happened, that’s factual. But I made it mean that you didn’t love me, and I realize I grew a lot from that, because by not having those toys and having gone through that whole thing, it really allowed me to do some personal development and growth on my own, which has allowed me to have deeper relationships with other people. So I wanted to thank you for that. I never thanked you, I always blamed you for what you did to me when I was 10 years old and all the things that came about that, but now I learned that’s actually a lesson and because of that, I’ve grown to be such a greater man than I would have been.”
So when I’m doing this, is I’m writing this letter out and I’m taking full responsibility for what I made those actions mean. Now, I’m not apologizing, right? So I’m not apologizing, I’m not saying, “Oh, you know. You burnt my toys,” and again, a horrible example, but the first thing that came to mind. You burnt my toys; it’s not your fault. I’m not saying that at all because there are some horrific things that happened and I’m not saying you have to do this with everybody.
I made you burning my toys mean something, right? I created a story, and this is often what we do, right? I created a toy, it means this. And the stories aren’t necessarily always true, but what it allowed me to do, right, what’s the growth that you got out of that with this individual. Now, most likely, this person did something to you, but if you did something to them, you have a chance to just straight up apologize, say, “Hey, Sue. I’m really sorry that I burnt all your toys when I was ten years old. I was going through,” and talk to them, and tell them what’s happening. “I was going through a lot with our parents’ separation and I didn’t know how to cope with it and I took it out on you and I really apologize. I wish you were here so I could show you because out of this development and realization, I grew X, Y, Z.”
So what you’re gonna do is you’re gonna take full responsibility for everything that happened. And that doesn’t mean that the other person is not responsible at all. You’re taking full responsibility for your actions and the scene that was set up within that. And I know there are gross examples where people have a lot of problems with this, this exercise. And that’s up to you to decide. I’m not going to get here and get into a philosophical debate. There are certain actions that I just think are unexcusable. But you can still take back ownership, not take responsibility, take ownership and say, “You did something gross to me, something really, really bad.”
Rape is one that comes to mind right away. Getting beat up, picked on in school. You could just simply say, “I’m no longer allowing you to have that power over me. I’ve become,” in your case, “I’ve become this phenomenal woman who’s continuing to grow herself,” who’s continuing to search within myself and become better and better despite what you did and what happened. And I’m fully letting go of that past. That past story no longer controls me. I’m moving forward in my life. And you can write that story down.
Now, what do you do with this once you’ve written this letter? Well, what I like to do with it is burn it. Maybe I’m a little bit of a pyro, but I’ve seen this exercise done a lot. It’s actually like burning it and watching it disintegrate and something happens, I think, subconsciously when we see that, which we create destroyed, especially if something bad in the past, it kind of feels like it leaves us, right? It’s ephemeral; it just goes away.
And this is something you can do with all aspects. Now, if this person was alive and in your case, it’s not, but if they were alive, I would encourage you to reach out to them. Reach out to them and what happens is, it’s not for them, right? You’re not doing this for them; you’re doing this for you. Now, if you wronged somebody, you should reach out to them for them as well. But again, you’re not playing the victim role and you shouldn’t put the victim role upon them, right? You’re not going to take away something, so if you did something to somebody, don’t make them a victim.
But go ahead and apologize. Apologize and take full responsibility. 100% ownership for your actions. Now, also you take 100% ownership for your feelings. So if someone did something wrong to you, take ownership of those feelings. If you’re hurt, you’re sad, you’re angry, that’s you. You can change your feelings and change your perception in any environment that you’re in. Some are harder than others and I get that. However, you can change it.
So once you take 100% ownership, write all that down, burn is my recommendation, of course, you could just throw it away, tear it up, whatever you want to do because you can’t mail it to them because they’re not around anymore. So go ahead and do that and then once you’re done with that whole process? Relax. Breathe and journal about it and that’s the key, I think really going through that whole process of writing that letter and taking 100% ownership of that is the key to freedom and the key to moving forward.
So I hope that helps you and the rest of you listening to this, I hope that helps you as well. If there’s somebody in your life that has wronged you or do something wrong or you feel like you’ve wronged and you’re not able to reach out to them? Do it through this method; it’s very simple and it’s gonna release a burden. Oftentimes, we don’t think it bothers us, and that’s really because you’ve been carrying that around. It’s like if you’re 30 pounds overweight, you’re like, “Yeah, it’s not that big of a deal.” Well, once you lose that 30 pounds and you feel how much lighter you are? If you grab a 30-pound weight, you’re like holy cow, this is holding me down and I didn’t even know it.
Same thing emotionally happens to us, so. I invite to try this exercise. I’ve seen it work for a lot of people. And it’s just one that can really set you free. That’s it for me today; I’d love to hear how this works for you, so please respond and let me know. And for the rest of you out there watching or listening to this, I’d like to hear how this works for you also. If you have other tips and tricks, send them my way and I’m happy to share those out as well.
Go out and be the author of your own story.
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