It’s unlikely that you’ll reach adulthood without some baggage, especially if you’ve lived a little. In my lifetime I’ve dated or been friends with narcissists, love-allergic and codependent people, and some textbook toxic individuals, to name a few. As we mature, we hopefully get a little better at spotting them and notice red flags earlier. For me I got really serious about what I would and wouldn’t accept from other people and myself.

And that is exactly what has transformed my landscape of people from something resembling an orchestra falling down the stairs, to an imperfectly lovely chorus of people who are honest, respectful, committed to personal growth and, most importantly, a lot of fun!

And yet, here or there I’ve found a fly in the ointment; people I’ve let go of popping up in my awareness again and again. I might be in the middle of a huge laughing fit with a friend and suddenly the junkie lover-turned-cheater crashes into my brain and disrupts the flow of quality time I’m enjoying with one of my favourite people. Or I’m getting to know someone new in the romantic sense, looking at them from across the table and suddenly an ex I haven’t thought about in a while almost pops up like a ghost right next to my date’s face.

There are people I’ve let go of years ago, who I don’t want to think about anymore (are the people occupying your head paying rent?) and yet they’ve turned up time and time again. Some pointers:

1. Did you give away some of your power in that relationship or friendship?

There may be old wounds that have yet to be healed in the form of giving your power away. That can look like saying ‘yes’ to something they wanted when you meant ‘no’. Spending time with them that you weren’t actually enjoying or agreed to begrudgingly. Continuing to let them treat you or speak to you in an unacceptable way, including neglect or apathy. Perhaps you valued stability more than your wellbeing; maybe you made the choice to stay in the toxic situation because the unknown or insecurity of the alternative was too frightening or threatening to you (no judgement).

Sometimes we do have to make difficult decisions and maybe we weren’t financially capable of leaving a partner and had to put up with it for a while. This is not an exercise of self-judgement. I invite you to consider the possibilities purely as an opportunity to heal.

I remember that I once met a childhood crush as an adult. We chatted for one hour and had a cup of tea together. He made all these plans and big promises about us spending time together and then ghosted me. I spent years with him constantly popping up in my mind. Anytime my family had seen him and told me about it I was incensed. It took me a long time to realise that I had rejected him aloud to someone else only a week afterwards, and that he was probably looking for a partner and I wasn’t at the time, having just broken up with someone else.

Once I realised that I was in the pattern of being hurt and it wasn’t necessary, and I remembered that I was perfectly in my power when I very honestly rejected the notion, it healed a lot of the wound of abandonment and I thought of him very little after that. I invite you to remember your choices and the part you played in these situations, not to illicit blame, but simply to remember the things that you did do for yourself. The decisions you made, the things you honestly said or even thought, and the part you absolutely took part in. This is so you can begin to focus on your own power and your own capability to choose. If we can make those kinds of choices, we can make any choice we consciously want to!

2. Trauma

Point one does not apply to situations where we were helpless or extremely vulnerable i.e. childhood. I won’t litter everyone’s minds with a personal account, but suffice it to say that extreme childhood trauma is something that I have personally dealt with and have helped other people to deal with. I lived with PTSD related to that abuse for twenty years and finally got successful treatment after asking for help for a very, very long time.

As discussed with my very own traumatologist and therapist Amanda Wells on my podcast, this kind of trauma does not get filed away in your long-term memory the way most other things do when you go to sleep at the end of every day. It can ping around your head for years afterwards, and it is given extra fuel when you run into something that your brain associates with that trauma, setting it off, and that’s why something that may have happened some time ago can suddenly feel like it’s happening again, right now. Thus, if you have untreated, long-term trauma, often what’s pinging around in your brain also includes the people who were part of that memory.

My recommendation when it comes to long-term trauma or PTSD is to find a trauma practitioner. In my experience, most traditional psychologists, psychiatrists, and counsellors do not have trauma training, unless they have gone on to do extra qualifications specific to trauma treatment. Speaking about or re-living your trauma can strengthen the memories in your brain, and can therefore exacerbate your trauma rather than relieving it. Many different methods are credited with huge successes in this area, including EFT and Matrix, EMDR, and TimeLine Therapy which is associated with NLP, many of its practices having since been proven to work and incorporated into traumatologists’ practices.

If you do not have access to trauma practitioners and are on a budget, I hugely recommend the book Believe by Raf and Olivia Ocaña, which is very (very) alternative, but effective.

3. Energetic Ties

When we bond with people, it seems short-sighted to think that our ties to them are purely psychological or historical. We are vibrational beings, buzzing with moods, dreams, and energy, and there is often an invisible, yet tangible connection formed with others.

Not long after a particularly bad breakup, I came down with the worst cold of my life at the end of a particularly gruelling grieving period. And whilst my defences were down, I found myself one afternoon physically seeing my ex’s kitchen, seeing a hand reach out to turn the kettle on and then walking to the back door to let the dog out. Nothing exciting, except for the fact that I strongly experienced this in the middle of the day, whilst I was elsewhere, and am a big fan of sobriety, and it completely freaked me out.

Once I realised the energetic tie was still there, I cut it, and other than a bit more processing of the situation, that was it and it didn’t happen again.

I have coached many people over many years, and the above three things are the hooks that come up time and time again when it comes to being haunted by old, toxic relationships and friendships. And, no matter how turbulent our past is, we have the right and the capacity to move on.

Do you need help cutting some cords? Perhaps you’ve had enough of ghosts and want to concentrate on living? My new meditation pack is available below. I walk you through grounding, connecting, cutting cords and inviting new, wonderful people into your experience.