Own Your Story Before It Owns You, Step 4

Brené Brown puts it this way, “When we deny the story, it defines us…”

How do we keep from allowing our stories to define us?

            Surprisingly, this action is another decision. No matter what has happened to us in the past, no matter how we have handled situations yesterday, we will be held there, trapped, if we don’t break out of those memories that have chains around us. We must forgive. It’s the only way.

            If this step seems impossible to you—then perhaps seeing the progression of the thought process will help.

A negative event > traumatic memory > negative emotion > denial > capture

            Did you see it? Without even realizing it, we are easily captured and held hostage in a traumatic memory. Notice the word “in” and not “by”.  If we do not resolve and reconcile a past traumatic event with a present rescue, we are simply captured—stuck—IN that part of our story. Eventually we relate to the capture as a perpetual state of being, believing that our prison-like circumstances will never change.

            But they can!  We often are reluctant to forgive offending parties because we mistakenly equate forgiveness with injustice. We think that, if we truly forgive someone, that person will be “let off the hook” and never face appropriate justice. We must come to realize that by not forgiving, we simply stay in our prison, even when the prison guard has unlocked the cell. In truth, we are free to leave anytime.

            For most of us, the act of forgiving is not easy. But the action is absolutely necessary. We must walk out of the cell, held captive no more!  Emotional freedom is worth the risk of doing something foreign, something with which we are not familiar. Yet the freedom is well worth the risk!  Remember, Your Story Matters!

Own Your Story Before It Owns You, Step 3

What lies have you believed about yourself?

Eventually I realized I couldn’t be honest with anyone until I was honest with myself. So that was the first lie that I addressed.  Soon I learned how to describe what had happened in such a way as to identify with others about tragedies in their lives. That took care of others looking down on me. Then, several months later, I met “the man of my dreams” and realized I would have to examine the third lie, the one that whispered, “If he knows what you have really done — he will have nothing to do with you!” By then I was strong enough to realize that if he couldn’t accept my story as it was, we were not meant for each other. I faced the lie forthrightly, standing on truth, and was triumphant to watch the lie dissolve before my eyes. My soon-to-be husband not only accepted my story, but his heart was tender and compassionate in hearing what I had experienced.

What lies do you believe? Dig deep here. Ponder the setting of the negative emotion, the characters involved in the denial. Recognize they all have played a part in your story and they, in essence, have wanted to own you. Rise up and take back your story. This is your book, your life.

Own Your Story Before It Owns You, Step 2

The only thing worse than being in denial is being in denial and not knowing it.

 I had come to my coach for help, and she had kindly brought to my attention that, although I could easily speak about the day my brother died, I could not address the truth of the situation. I had killed Billy. I had in fact been living in denial, hoping beyond hope that somewhere, deep down inside me, that statement wasn’t true. I had driven a tractor; Billy had died. End of story.

            But, of course, that was not the end. My denial had been the stone in my path, the lock on my life’s door. I simply could not move forward until I had removed that stone and unlocked the door. I had to move beyond denial.

            When you identified the negative emotion in Step One that has been haunting you for so long, you were immediately put into the position of making a choice. Like identifying the mountain lion that is staring you down on a mountain trail, you simply cannot remain rooted where you are and hope for the best. Now it is time for decision. This is moving beyond denial. This is bravely—and it really is a courageous action—facing the mountain lion in your life and deciding that you will do something.  Keep your eye on the mountain lion, and slowly move away. Don’t rush this step—the mountain lion will interpret your sudden movement as a challenge and will race you, and you will lose. In the same way, squarely face the negative emotion, processing it thoroughly in your mind, taking some time to consider your moves. Then do something.  In my case, after several weeks, I privately uttered sincerely the devastating words of truth: “I killed Billy.” Moving beyond denial was a big step in my recovery.

Own Your Story Before It Owns You, Step 1

What do you do when you get uncomfortable? When the negative feelings nag you? Become aware of the negative emotion and name it. If you are already aware of what is bothering you, you are ahead of the game. But if you don’t, or if you want to double-check your guess, then do this: get to a place where you can be alone and quiet. Close your eyes. Rest in the fact that no one is watching, no one is accusing, no one is condemning. Breathe. After a few minutes, simply ask yourself, “What is causing this negativity in me?”

            And then listen. Don’t be surprised if the answer is not the one you thought it would be. Take several minutes to examine the picture or word that came up in your mind. Mentally match the picture or word with the name of a negative emotion. For example, the answer to the question “What is causing this negativity in me?” may be, “Memories of the car accident.”  Then pair the picture of the accident with its accompanying emotion: “Fear! I am afraid!”  When you can confidently identify the negative emotion with an accurate name, take a deep breath and let it out.

You have completed Step One. Identify the negative emotion.

Letting Go of Your Past, Step 5

Breakthrough happens the moment we make a choice and take action. This is not a once-and-for-all type of thing.  It’s the beginning of a transformational journey.


Forgiveness is often a process. Sometimes we may say the words, forgiving on an intellectual level, and this may be the best we know at the moment. But don’t be surprised if true forgiveness takes some time to grow. The more you experience emotional healing, the sooner you will be able to forgive from a deeper place and rebuild the relationships.


For me, once the deeper healing had taken place, I could embrace life from a new perspective. I began to wake up each day with new passion, new dreams, new relationships, and new energy.

Letting Go of Your Past, Step 4

Step 4. Forgive Yourself

It seems like no matter where we have been or what we have done, this step seems ninety stories high. How in the world will we ever scale the heights of this one?

But this step is key; this is where the other steps have led. Forgiving others and forgiving yourself is absolutely essential if you hope to live in the freedom you deserve. They allow us to simply let go. 


Self-forgiveness is what allows us to let go of our offense, of the emotional pain that accuses us, holds us back, and threatens to undo us. Forgiving ourselves frees us to “let go” emotionally of the part of ourselves that is to blame, freeing us to start again on a path in life that leads to enjoying life to the fullest.


Self-forgiveness is the KEY to letting go of the past that won’t let go of you. But, how do you do that?