Jeff Emmerson at Modavie Restaurant in Montreal, Canada - August 2016

That’s me on the right in the photo (with a jazz duo performing in the corner), adjusting my glasses or something. My wife and I were celebrating our five-year anniversary in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, a city that has deep personal significance for me. In fact, this return back to the city I’ve loved for many years is what inspired this post, so let’s get right into it:

Letting Go of the Past Has Taken Me Many Years

I admit it – I’ve always been a “sentimental” man. Since very early childhood, I can remember being sensitive, emotional and inquisitive from an “existential” perspective (a deep thinker, let’s just say). That can be a deeply troubling set of traits to live with, but it’s also incredibly beautiful as well. How’s that for a paradox?

Anyway, it’s said that issues in early childhood where attachment and forming healthy bonds can affect how much someone holds on to things that have come and gone, whether it be past relationships that were hard to “get over,” a period of life where innocence and new experiences were thriving (teen years, perhaps), and so-on. I totally get that – I’ve been lost in the past at times, holding on to something that was long gone.

Many times I found myself spending precious time wallowing in the past, longing for the “ache” of memories, of days gone by. It wasn’t something I could just snap out of, either. I needed to work through things in my own time, with my own process.

Some Wounds Never Fully Heal, and That’s Where Acceptance is Crucial

What I mean by this is that we’ve got to start with raw, honest acceptance to be able to move forward in a healthy way sometimes. There are things I’ve done that I wished to God I could take back, and moments where I had my heart absolutely broken by a girl I cared for very deeply, though we didn’t truly know what love was. It took time for me to let her go, and she would contact me out of the blue over the years to say hello. We had a real chemistry and a deep connection emotionally, but we were just kids in a sense, having no idea what we both wanted from life, as much as we thought we knew at the time…I ached for her for a long time, I confess.

That was tough to work through and move on from. It took acceptance, a fair bit of crying at moments, and hammering home the message that it wasn’t what I thought it was (our relationship). It just felt that way due to our chemistry and where each of us were at whenever we’d get together.

The Dream That (Literally) Nearly Killed Me – Let Go!

God, this one still stings a tiny bit here and there. Long story short, I literally waited over 5,000 days to pursue a career mission I was on during the late nineties all the way to 2014, frankly. I wrote about it in this post (and this one as well, part one and two respectively), detailing just how much it took to prove myself as I did everything I humanly could to clear my name and prove myself in society’s eyes, even if it meant giving my life with the military to do it.

That took a long, long time to gradually let go of, and several times I was driven to severe despair and depression as I waited all those years, leading up to my 2011 suicide attempt. I even have a permanent tattoo related to that goal.

Advice For Finally Letting Go of the Past – From The Heart (Mine)

First: Each of us feel and process differently, so by no means will I say that I have the “perfect formula” for letting go of thought and behavior patterns holding that may be preventing you from living fully in the present. I still reflect a lot on my journey, on how I went from my past and battles to becoming one of the 1% of people to ever sign a traditional book deal and become globally recognized for my brand and message.

However, what I can tell you without hesitation is that the first step to any of this is in stopping and facing our inner fear of being ashamed, or of facing a dark time in your life, or facing the realization that you’re still hanging on to something that simply isn’t there anymore. Sometimes it’s a form of self-comfort in a twisted way, we find comfort in the familiar because it’s “safe,” unlike the unknown of the present and future. I get that. It’s like the comfort of watching TV shows or movies we’ve seen before in a sense.

As clinical as it sounds, the first step for me was to get crystal-clear about the thoughts and wallowing over my past, to write them down with total self-compassion, knowing I was proud of myself for wanting to do the work to finally heal these things, to gradually move through them and thrive by re-framing and looking at them in new, healthy and empowering ways going forward.

The great news: You can only help yourself by facing these sometimes uncomfortable feelings when you remind yourself that you’ve had enough of the same patterns of thought or behavior. Until you’ve had enough, however (somewhere deep inside), you may not consciously choose to work on these patterns, though. You have to ask yourself this question:

Have you had enough wallowing in patterns that truly don’t serve you in a good way in life? Start there. Take some time and really ponder this question without excuses, validations or any other self-sabotaging patterns. Face it openly and honestly like I do. God, is it ever liberating in the end…I’m more free than I’ve ever been, and I’m moving on with fresh excitement and gratitude for all these lessons.

From my heart,

Jeff