Old hurts, sad memories, and pain come back to haunt us when we least expect them. They act like trigger mechanisms for us. They create a pattern that can stay with us long-term if we don’t do something to “cure” our pain soon. They become a roadmap for our lives, defining who we are, what we do, and how we’ll respond to even the tiniest slight. They may lie dormant for months or years at a time, but underneath the surface, right below the façade you put on to get you through your day, they lie in wait. When triggered, a signal is sent to your brain to drag you right down back into the pain and anger or sorrow that’s been festering for ages. They elicit an emotional response that’s not always healthy.

These long-held emotions need to be defined and categorized otherwise you’ll never find your way past them. At their core, they are the basis for everything that you say or do. Your emotions flutter around, bouncing from one extreme to the other, as if they’re searching for something to hold onto. Your reaction stems from wherever you are mentally. You make the choice to let it send you spiraling out of control or to ignore them and move forward. They are your hot spots, your points of contention, the places you don’t want to return to in your mind. They exist on repeat, setting up a negative pattern that we’ll follow until we can’t take anymore.

Next, you must understand why this pattern exists in the first place. It’s a sort of mourning, if you will. The pain in a twisted way adds value to the triggering event/s. It signifies the loss of joy or love or wholeness. Somehow, your mind has told you that this is the way it has to be. We’re here to tell you, it’s not. You make the choice to let it go, to change the pattern, to say goodbye to whatever that thing is. You can’t let the event, the person, the circumstance rob you of who you are or who you want to be.

The next phase is shoring up your strength to combat these negative emotions. You need the right tools.

The most obvious tool is to redirect yourself. You know when a negative emotion is clouding your judgment. Have a contingency plan. Pledge to make real change and find a support system to get you through the darkest moments.

Learn to forgive yourself and treat yourself and others who may be struggling well. Imagine someone you love is going through the same pain, how would you treat them? You’d offer support and send them love and gently push them in the right direction. Do the same for yourself. Guide yourself, give yourself a pep talk, write out healthy reminders to keep moving forward. Stop punishing yourself.

Practice visualization. Imagine yourself physically dumping all the hurt and pain and tossing it away. Try writing down your emotions, then, setting a match to them to get rid of them forever. Those acts alone may help take the weight off your shoulders. Give yourself the right to say goodbye to negativity.