Letting Go of Old Stories Part 2

Just open, relax your heart, forgive, laugh or do anything you want. Just don’t push it back down. It was stored with pain, it’s going to release with pain. It only hurts for a minute and then it’s over.” Michael Singer

If you prefer to listen

Link to Letting Go of Old Stories, Part 1

Steps to Letting Go of Old Stories
  1. Notice the Story Arising
  2. Change the Focus of Your Attention
  3. Investigate the Story
  4. Let Go of the Story
  5. Rewrite Your Story
  6. Start Living Your New Story
Let Go

When a story hurts you, if you attach to it and carry it around, it hurts you again and again. Every time you think of it, it hurts you again. Believe it or not, neurologists have found that the physiological lifespan of an emotion is 90 seconds. So, if you let go of the story, the uncomfortable sensations of the emotion will dissipate. The emotion lasts longer when we keep replaying the story, starting the 90 seconds over and over. I have heard it said that your capacity to let go equals your capacity to be free and happy.

If the story isn’t serving you, let it go. Each time you replay the story, you strengthen the neuro pathway, making it harder to let go. Sometimes we hold onto stories because we fear we will lose something if we let go. In my example of letting go of the story that my dad thought I was not good enough, I had to knock him of the pedestal of being perfect. My new story was that he was proud of me and trying to motivate me, but not in the most skillful way.

And I think that old stories don’t release us easily. They shape us. And so when somebody comes along and says, hey, this thing you believe, it’s not really true. It’s not a hundred percent accurate. There’s a grief associated with that loss.” Denise Hamilton

In response to Denise Hamilton, Adam Grant said:

It’s funny that you say that because as you’re talking about the grief associated with letting go of an old story, I’m thinking about what I think is the most highlighted sentence in Think Again, which is, who you are is not a question of what you believe, it’s a question of what you value. And I think that people are making a fundamentalist mistake if they start to take an opinion, um, a story as part of their identity, they’ve then robbed themselves of the opportunity to grow and evolve.” Adam Grant

 Some of our stories limit us. We stay attached to them because they are familiar. If we want to move past the limits the story places on us, we have to let go. If the story is no longer true, we can rewrite it. However, if the story is true, we have to accept it, forgive ourselves, and build our life around that wound. A lot easier said than done because:

Unfortunately … we’re not really trying to be free of our stuff, we’re trying to justify keeping it.” Michael Singer

There are many things in your life binding you to that story, family, friends, co-workers. All trying to keep you from breaking free. You can thank them for trying to keep you safe, while you create new boundaries. The boundaries are set to keep them from reinforcing old stories. If setting boundaries doesn’t work, you may have to distance yourself from them.

We organize around our stories. And so if I have a fundamental belief that water is wet, and I’ve aligned myself with a bunch of people who think water is wet, and then somebody comes along and says, actually, water can be steam, it can be ice. Then I have to decide what my connection is to all of these other people. It’s not as certain. It’s not as sure.” Denise Hamilton

Letting go is not a passive practice. Think of the story as a ball you are throwing away. Unfortunately, there is a dog (the part of you not ready to let go of the story) that retrieves the ball and brings it back to you. Remember you already know how to throw it away. So, you can do it over and over, improving your throw.

The old stories will come up again and again. When you let them play out, the neuro pathways strengthen. Practicing meditation will train you to notice them more quickly. Each time you interrupt them, the neuro pathways will get weaker.  They may never go away completely, but if you keep practicing, they will no longer limit your life. So just keep letting go.

Many of us have been holding on to old versions of ourselves because we don’t know where to put them. Our emotional suitcases are so full that there’s no room for change because there’s no space.” Alex Elle

Rewrite Your Story

In order to rewrite our stories, we have to be conscious of them. Often instead of rewriting, we ruminate. It’s as if we think the next time that we play the story the ending will change. We can’t change the past. But we can explore whether the story can be told in a more positive, empowering way. Toddlers don’t learn to walk by beating up on themselves when they fall down. We can’t learn new skills by beating up on ourselves either.

It’s important for me to center what I know to be true. Not what I hope to be true, not what used to be true, but what I know to be true right now. So I am a big believer in shifting the trajectory of our thought process with the words we tell ourselves. If we are telling ourselves these negative stories or playing things in our mind that are causing us more stress than ease, that will break us down. And I have been there. It is hard to reframe and think, Hey, that is not the truth right now. So that’s why it’s important to be kind to ourselves as we work our way through the stuff that’s really hard.” Alex Elle

You don’t have to rewrite your whole story. Start with one small paragraph or chapter at a time. As you rewrite the story, begin looking for evidence that supports that story. Sometimes we identify so closely with a false old story that we cannot see ourselves clearly. One of my stories was that if people got to know the true me, they wouldn’t want to be friends with me. Rewriting that story changed it to, not everyone will want to be my friend, but there are plenty of people who will want to be my friend.

If your story is that you aren’t liked by others then think about the relationships you do have. Maybe you don’t have the huge social circle that you feel you are “supposed to have”, but what relationships do you have in your life that have been there for a long time? The evidence shows that you do have friends and family who love you, otherwise they wouldn’t give you their time.” Chantelle Grady 


Think of a story that holds you back. What are the facts of the story? What was said> What was left unsaid? What actions happened? What baggage have you or others added on to the story? What different interpretations could there be of the facts? How can that story be told in a more empowering way?

Start Living Your New Story

It’s easy to talk ourselves out of doing the work we need to change period but becoming who we wish to become in this life requires acknowledging and releasing who we used to be. It calls on us to recognize our patterns and put action behind changing them.” Alex Elle

Just rewriting your story won’t product results. You need to take steps that align with your new story. I could not just keep telling myself that there are plenty of people who would want to be my friend. I had to pick up the phone or send a text or email inviting people to join me for coffee/tea, or a walk.

As Alex Elle notes, affirmations without actions are just words. Taking action is an important part of any healing journey—we cannot just write “I am worthy” and “I am enough” and think everything will change. We need to take steps to lean into our worthiness and implement actual changes in our lives. This kind of work will have lasting impact in our lives.” Caroline Leaf 

Whenever I am about to pick up my phone to do so, my old story resurfaces. So, I have to remind myself of my new story. Not everyone will want to be my friend, but some will. Instead of beating myself up for delaying making that phone call, I can be kind to myself. With self-compassion, I can tell myself that this is hard, and I am afraid of rejection. I can remember the times I called someone, and they were happy that I did. Then I can remember all the other people in the world who experience that same fear.  Not feeling so alone gives me the courage to live my new story.

When we look closely at our stories, we find that many of them are figments of our imagination. We think we remember accurately, but our brains are not video recorders. We take still pictures and fill in the blanks. Many of our stories were helpful at some time in our past, we continue to replay them despite the fact that they are no longer helpful. So we need to let them go and rewrite the next chapter of our life.