What Everyone Should Know About Past Self Work
Updated: Apr 12, 2020
A few years ago, I had just broken up with a partner, moved out of our home and into my own apartment, and signed up for a trial period of yoga classes to try to recenter myself. I always arrived about 15 minutes before class started so I could meditate. On this day I felt especially sad about not having my ex-boyfriend in my life anymore. I couldn’t stop thinking about him and I felt like I just wanted to curl up in a ball and cry.
I took a breath and said, “Woah, I understand feeling sad about a breakup but there is way more to this sadness.” I asked myself, “Why am I so sad?” Immediately, an image popped into my head. I saw my six-year-old self curled up and weeping in a dark, empty room. I realized that, although I had known for over a year before the breakup that my ex and I were not a good fit, my little girl self clung to the safety I felt through him. He was gone and my six-year-old self was terrified and locked back in that scary, dark, empty room alone. I immediately knelt down and held her. I said, “It’s okay. I promise I am here and I am never going to leave. I love you so much and you are safe.” I held her as tightly as I could. Suddenly, my six-year-old self and I were standing in the park, she smiled and ran to the sandbox to play.
At that moment, I loved her the way she needed to be loved in order to let go of the dark terrifying room she was confined in. I released my little girl self from the years of fear that she had been trapped in so that she could choose to live in a playground space where she could play and laugh and feel safe.
Okay, are you still with me? Because I just told you about the time I talked to my six-year-old self at a playground. But you’re probably reading this for the same reason that I am writing it - because you know that there are parts of you that need to heal, you know that you are the only one who can do that healing, and you want to know where to start. So stop being all “is this woman crazy?” And just try it. You have nothing to lose. You may, however, have a six-year-old self waiting for you to help her feel safe.
What is Past Self work?
Past self work is some of the most powerful healing work you can do. When we work with our past selves, we get to go back to a time when we experienced pain and we give ourselves what we needed at that moment but didn’t receive.
Some people are hesitant when they first hear about working with their past selves because they think it involves reliving a painful experience. But I like to think about past self-work like the work of a firefighter. A firefighter voluntarily walks into the flames of a burning building. But while there, she doesn’t try to grab furniture or save the television. She doesn’t let the smoke from the fire cloud her focus. She is there for one reason and one reason only - to save those who are stuck in the building and get out. We are doing the same thing for our past selves. When we go back for our past selves we will be moving through some of the scariest, most heated times in our lives. But we’re not going back to relive those moments or to allow the emotions of those times to engulf us and affect us all over again. We are there for one sole purpose - to save our past selves. So that’s your mission: save your past selves - and they are waiting for you, so let’s get started.
Figure Out Who Needs Your Help
So many of my thoughts, feelings, and reactions to situations and fears are all somehow tied to experiences of the past - and my past selves are a huge part of that. So now, when I am feeling afraid or anxious or angry or confused and I just can’t seem to shake those feelings, I recognize that those feelings may be stemming from one of my past selves. So I ask, “Who is feeling this way?” It’s pretty amazing how quickly an image of one of my past selves pops up in response.
Comfort Your Past Self
Just like you need to get things off your chest sometimes, so do your past selves. Ask them, “Tell me how you are feeling, what’s going on?” One of my past selves started crying and told me how lonely she was feeling. Ask your past self what would make her feel better. Maybe she wants a hug, maybe she wants you to pet her head or rub her back or go for a walk with her. Love her the way she needs at that moment.
Ask Your Past Self Where She Wants To Go
One of my past-selves was stuck in a very abusive time in my life. She felt abandoned and scared. I asked her, “Where do you want to go?” Excitedly, she told me that she wanted to go to a swimming pool with palm trees and an ice cream cone that never melts and floats alongside her outside of the water while she swims. So, that’s where we went. She swam and ate ice cream. I could feel how truly loved my past self felt for the first time in years. She needed this. I needed this. As I watched her fill with joy, I felt lighter. I knew that the scared little girl was safe and happy now. I was safe and happy now.
Release Your Past Self
This is the best part because you get to let go, knowing that part of yourself is healed. Spend a moment watching her beam with happiness, then take a deep breath in and out and come back to the present moment.
Now it’s Your Turn
For me, that day at the yoga studio, it was my six-year-old self who was being abused by both parents every day. For you, it could be your past self from last week or 10 years ago. Arrive in the moment and hold yourself. Listen to your past self and then tell yourself what you need to hear. Hold yourself in the way that you need to be held. Be the person you need. What happens next is magic - your past self will feel lighter. She will trust you, feel loved by you, feel safe.
Watch as your past self laughs and dances. Watch as the fear and sadness of the moment you met her melt away and feel peace knowing that the fear and sadness are gone. Hold your past self one last time and tell her she never has to go back to the place she was. Hold her tightly and feel your love pouring into her. Notice how the love you’re giving your past self comforts your current adult self as well. You are comforting parts of yourself that felt helpless and left behind in the past. In doing so, that part of yourself is healed and you can feel more at peace in your adult life.