A Guide To Letting Go Of The Past

anxiety depression guilt ocd

I received a question directly from the online Facebook group CBT SCHOOL Campus that I will respond to in this week’s episode of Your Anxiety Toolkit Podcast.  The question is about letting go of the past, and how to actually do it in particular. 

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CBT SCHOOL Campus is an online group of incredible people who support each other while they do hard things!  The group is made up of people who are struggling with Depression, Anxiety, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and other mental health issues.  Every member is nice, caring, and supportive.  If you are not familiar with CBT SCHOOL campus, you can check it out HERE.

The question posed, that will be answered in this podcast, is one that the CBT SCHOOL Campus online group agreed was both very challenging to approach and extremely painful.

Here is the question: 

“One of my obsessive regulars is about things from the past that my mind twisted and has blown way out of proportion (at least that’s what my non-OCD support people tell me. Ha!), but the memories cause me immense guilt/shame because I question my motives and wish I hadn’t done it. I do my exposures to try and accept that I may have had the wrong motive, it may have been inappropriate, I may be bothered by it forever, etc. 

My struggle lies in the yucky, depressed, guilty feeling it gives me as it looms and sucks the joy. That often leads to the worry of suicide if I can never get over it. I try to welcome the yuck, keep moving, etc.  Anything specific that has helped you?”

This is such a great question!  In this podcast episode, I address miscalculation (or a rating game) in which we misinterpret events from the past and use these events to define or calculate ourselves, our value, and our worth.  Miscalculation can become a compulsion and, as you might already know, leads you to feel worse as you continue to do it.  The more you review yourself and past events, the more you find to be upset about and the worse you feel.


  • When we recall past events, we will experience some uncomfortable feelings such asa “yuck, depressed, guilt feeling” that strips us of joy. 
  • We then interpret events from thepast to define us now. 
  • We take in all that have done and we attempt to calculate ourworth and value.
  • We react to this miscalculation in ways that cause the cycle to continue over and over. 

Let’s take a look at our Automatic Solutions to the Problem:  

  • Memories arise and then when the emotions arise, wedo everything we can to make these uncomfortable emotions go  
  • We interpret that we aren’t bad if the bad feelings aren’t present.
  • We make a judgment about ourselves and we allowpast events to define us. 
  • Weget caught up in a discussion on identity or “Who am I?” 
  • We turn to beating ourselves up.  We give ourselves a mental “whipping” in attempt to “prove we won’t do it again” or to “teach ourselves a lesson.” 
  • We allow the opinions of others define us (“If they think we are bad, we must be bad.”)


  • Hopelessness, sometimes Depression
  • We feel helpless because the above cycle is not working.
  • We feel trapped in a cycle of rumination and self-criticism.
  • This leads to continued fear that we won’t be able to escape (in this case, this person now has suicide obsessions). 


  1. We have to stop this calculating of worth.
  2. We have to accept our common humanity (that we make mistakes)
    • Growth comes from making mistakes.
    • Sharon Selby talks about how mistakes help our brain grow.
    • We might want to check for errors in thinking.
  3. Just honor what shows up in the here and now.
    • Allow feelings. 
    • Allow yuck.
    • Allow guilt (guilt is having done a thing we deem as wrong or that goes against our values).
    • There is no emotion that will kill us.
  4. Have a conversation with Guilt
    • “Hi there guilt! I see that you are here right now.  I am not going to make you go away, but I am not going to give you all of my attention.” 

It’s a beautiful day to do hard things!  Speaking of which, we are thrilled to be offering swag with our very own CBT SCHOOL motto!  We have a variety of t-shirts and tank tops for women, men, and kids.  Each product has our CBT SCHOOL motto on it: “It’s a beautiful day to do hard things.”  Click HERE to check out the swag!


About Kimberley Quinlan

Kimberley Quinlan is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist who specializes in Anxiety, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Eating Disorders, Panic Disorder and Body Focused Repetitive Behaviors (BFRB’s).  Kimberley is highly trained in Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT), with a heavy emphasis on Exposure Response Prevention (ERP), and has been practicing meditation and mindfulness for many years.  Kimberley has a special interest in the integration of mindfulness principles with CBT for OCD, Anxiety Disorders, and Eating Disorders.  Kimberley has experience treating adults, adolescents, and children, and tailors each program to suit the age and cognitive development of each client.  Kimberley has a private practice in Calabasas and Westlake Village. 

For more information, you can find Kimberley at the following:

Website: https://kimberleyquinlan-lmft.com

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/cbtschool/?hl=en

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/KimberleyQuinlanCBTschool/