Life brings us so many joyful experiences. But it also gives us many challenges and hardships. No matter your age, it’s likely that you have at least a few fearful memories that stick inside of you. These troubling memories—what I call “negative memory nuggets”—are often storehouses of pain and hurt. Whether you are aware of these negative memories or not, it’s likely that they have a hold on you. In fact, the less aware you are of the memories, the greater their toxic effect will be.

The unconscious mind has an interesting way of keeping us stuck in past hurts and patterns until we unearth the issue and give it attention. This psychological process is much like a festering physical wound that gets covered over by a scab. Although the wound may look like it’s fine and healing on the outside, the cause of the abscess will need attention before true healing can occur. Fearful memories fester inside the self until they are noticed and tended to with compassionate healing energy.

As an example of how a real-life fearful memory can hold you back, imagine a man we’ll call Jason. Now 35, he has secretly held onto a specific fearful memory for many years. This destructive memory formed when he was a boy—a result of his father’s fiery reaction to a minor disaster that happened as Jason worked on a school science assignment. His father had repeatedly told Jason that he was a failure and would never amount to anything. Then one day, the volcano project Jason was building erupted onto the kitchen counter, floors, and walls. As Jason was cleaning it up, his father came home—and, though no real harm was done—exploded with fury. With a harsh slap to his fearful son’s face, he said, “You are an incompetent idiot. You make a disaster out of everything you touch. You’ll always be a failure.”

Jason’s memory was seared with the image of his father’s red face and the sound of his toxic words. This fearful memory became a negative memory nugget that has strongly affected Jason’s view of himself all these years later. Though Jason buried the memory deep in his mind, pretending it wasn’t there, it won’t let go of him.

Does Jason’s story sound familiar to you? Do you have your own versions of his tale? If you’re like most people, your conscious and unconscious mind may be teeming with fearful, toxic memories of your own. You might even be thinking, “Yes! I have my own fearful memories that are stuck inside of me. How can I let go of them?”

When it comes to letting go of fearful memories, trust that you have the power to move forward positively. A few simple steps—as well as patience and perseverance—will help you on your way. The more you practice the following “letting go” skills, the more your fearful memories will fade away:

1. Observe and Detach.

Notice when an old, fearful memory comes up to haunt you. Just notice the memory without judgment. Observe the memory like you are watching a film. Practice detaching from the memory rather than getting drawn into it.

2. Notice Without Judgment.

Allow yourself to notice, without judgment, the negative thoughts or beliefs that are part of this memory. For example, the memory may make you feel unworthy, damaged, unlovable, or doomed to failure.

3. Allow the Feelings to Move Through You.

Pay attention to how you feel when the memory arises. Does your body tense? Is there a tightening in your stomach? Does your throat constrict? Do you feel hot? Does your heart race? Notice, without judgment, how you are feeling. Allow the feelings to move through you rather than holding on to them.

4. Start to Let Go.

Begin letting go of your fearful memory by putting it into a dark-toned balloon. Place the negative thoughts and beliefs in the same balloon. Any negative feelings can also be set in the balloon. When you are ready, let go of the balloon to set yourself free from the fearful memory and the related negative images, thoughts, and beliefs. You may need to repeat this process many times before the fearful memory lessens its grip.

5. Replace the Negative with Positive.

Imagine a positive message and positive images that you would like to hold instead of the negative memory. For example, you might see yourself feeling joyful and free as you sit by the ocean. Then, allow that image of yourself to hold a lovely, transparent balloon. Place positive thoughts and beliefs inside this balloon. These messages might tell you that you are loved, worthy, kind, intelligent, caring, resilient, courageous, and more. Allow yourself to hold and enjoy that uplifting balloon. Repeat this imaginal process several times each day. The more you repeat the positive messages and images, the more joyful and positive you will feel.

We all have negative life experiences. It’s what we do with them that matters. When we choose to face the fearful memories and learn from them, we can then move forward to let go of them. Practice the above “letting go” steps often to set yourself free. You have the power to find your fearful memory nuggets and move forward with free and joyful heart!

**Originally published at Care2