“We are products of our past but we don’t have to be prisoners of it,” according to Rick Warren, author of “The Purpose Driven Life.”

I’ve worked with hundreds of people who seem to believe that they prisoners of their past. Here are some other necessary ingredients for remaining a prisoner.

• Believe that the past defines who you are, and your worth, for the rest of your life.

• Remain unwilling to get any help with your past.

• If you do get help, make sure you talk only about the past, and not what to do about it.

• Stay focused on the past by replaying it over and over in your mind.

• Use your past as an excuse for shortcomings.

In order to be released from the prison of the past, it’s necessary for us to do two very important things with the past: Make a place for it, and put it in its place.

Acknowledge the past and make sense out of how it is affecting you now.

Do you know where the past belongs? The past belongs in the past, behind you. In order to put the past in its place, you need to adopt two core beliefs:

• The past does not have to equal the future.

• What happens to us in life is not as important as how we respond to it, what we do about it now.

With those two beliefs installed, it’s time to do something about those prison walls. For most people, the walls of their prison are covered with lies about themselves, their past, their present and their future. Some lies that may sound familiar are “You will never get over it” or “You missed your chance.”

The fact is, all these beliefs about yourself are wrong. They are lies. Now it is time to stop believing the lies. Even the biggest and most obvious lies can begin to look like truth if they are told over and over again. It is time to challenge, debate and even make fun of the lies. You will be surprised how easily some of these lies can be torn down as you challenge them.

You can then begin to put up some truth. What’s the opposite of the lies you have believed? What do those who love you believe about you? What does your religion tell you about who you are?

If you struggle with coming up with some truth, talk to someone who cares about and loves you. Make an appointment with your minister, rabbi, etc. Find a counselor who will tell you the truth about you.

Jeff Herring, MS, LMFT, is a marriage and family therapist.

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