What Do You Call Someone Who Can’t Let Go of the Past?

It could be hard to let go of the past especially if it left a scar on you. Some people can replay every bad thing that has ever happened in their life simply because they cannot let go. 

Memories of past problems can keep replaying over and over again in our minds, but according to Psychology, when we dwell on the past, we tend to block our happiness in the future.

In this article, we’ll talk about different kinds of names which you can call such a person, how you can help the person to stop talking about the past and what it means when he or she can’t let go.

Different Names Of A Person Who Can’t Let Go Of The Past

What Do You Call Someone Who Can’t Let Go of the Past?

  • A depressed person 
  • A perfectionist 
  • An unforgiving person
  • The victim
  • A negative thinker

A depressed person

A person who can’t let go of the past could be called a depressed person. The psychological term for this is Anaclitic depression. 

In case you’re wondering what Anaclitic depression is, it is a psychological term for a person that cannot let go of an experience. It occurs when a person starts to feel abandoned and helpless due to social isolation. 

This kind of person would always feel lonely and depressed which may also lead to him or her not letting go of the past. Most depressed people are often people that find it difficult to let go of the past. 

They are haunted by the guilt or the pain which was caused by their experience and as such, they go into depression. It is always very difficult for the person to put the event behind him or her and this can make the person depressed. 

A perfectionist

Some people are trying to be the hero of their story, this may not be their fault as it can happen because they don’t want to be seen as losers.

It may be as a result of a mistake or event which has happened in the past, they may be trying to avoid future occurrences of their past mistake and this can turn them to be a perfectionist. 

When you see someone so obsessed with a perfect outcome or someone that finds it hard to accept any form of mistake, the person is a perfectionist who can’t let go of the past. He is trying to avoid any repetition of his past mistake in his present. 

Humans are bound to make mistake but people like that give little or no room for mistakes because the guilt of their past always haunt them.

When you see a person that always wants to be the hero and the perfect one, he has once been criticized due to a mistake that he made out of ignorance or other issues beyond his control.

An unforgiving person

A person that can’t forgive himself or forgive others is holding onto the past. The person is unforgiving because they are struggling with the shame or guilt of the past and can’t seem to make any progressive move or feel they deserve any forgiveness. 

Maybe you’ve physically hurt someone, or you had an abortion when you were younger or you had a rebellious teen stage and you can’t let go or forgive yourself, the best thing to do is to go for self-forgiveness exercises. This would help you to gradually let go of the past. 

When you see someone who can’t forgive himself, the person is most likely holding onto a past which feels him with pain, shame, and guilt.

The victim

When a person finds it hard to let go of the past, it could be that the person was the victim of the past occurrence. A victim is a person who has suffered physical or emotional damage and this can make the person hold on to the past. 

For instance, a victim of rape or a victim of a bully can find it very hard to let go of past experiences. I was once a victim of bully some time ago and I can tell you that it can be pretty hard to let go of such a traumatic experience. 

It affected my psychological and emotional health, I didn’t see myself as someone good enough. This took me some time to fully let go of the past and it was because I was always seeing myself as the victim in every situation. 

A negative thinker

What Do You Call Someone Who Can’t Let Go of the Past?

A negative thinker or a negative person can’t let go of the past. You should always create a positive mantra to help you counter the painful thoughts and guilt that would come.

It’s ok to have negative emotions sometimes but you should let them flow out. Anyone who holds on to these negative emotions can’t let go of the past 

What Does It Mean When A Person Can’t Let Go Of The Past

When a person can’t let go of the past, it means that;

  • He has a low self-esteem
  • He thinks of himself as a victim
  • He hasn’t forgiven others or himself for the bad things that happened
  • He may be a perfectionist

1. He has a low self-esteem

Part of the reasons why the person can’t let go of the past is because he has low self-esteem. When people have low self-esteem, they lack confidence and may not think kind thoughts of themselves. This can cause the person not to let go of the past.

2. He thinks of himself as a victim

When a person sees or thinks of himself as a victim, it is very hard for him to let go of the past. People who usually see themselves as a victim or have the victim mentality might have suffered trauma or hard times in the past and probably they’ve not had a better way to cope with life. 

This may make them have a negative view of life and as such, they may not be able to let go of past occurrences.

3. He hasn’t forgiven others or himself for the bad things that happened

When someone can’t let go of the past, it could mean that the person is unforgiving. He hasn’t forgiven himself or the people involved and when you can’t forgive yourself and others, there’s no way you can let go of the past. 

When a person forgives himself, he doesn’t hold on to the things of the past anymore. Not letting go of the past could mean that he hasn’t forgiven himself.

4. He may be a perfectionist

It could be that this person is a perfectionist which is why he is not letting go of the past. Maybe he’s so obsessed with changing the mistake he has made in the past and he’s trying to correct them in the best way possible. 

He can’t let go of the past because he hasn’t gotten any standard that is short of perfection. Perfectionists don’t want to be judged for their mistakes, so they keep using their past as a reference to avoid such behavior.

How Do You Get Someone To Stop Talking About The Past 

They are a few ways in which you can stop a person from talking about their past. Below are easy ways to do this;

  • Suggest counseling or therapy
  • Forgiving oneself or self-forgiveness
  • Shifting focus
  • Socializing 
  • Live in the present
  • Interruption techniques 
  • Self-care

1. Suggest counseling or therapy

Therapy and counseling are one of the best ways to make a person stop talking about their past. A good therapy session can make a person reduce your talk about the past as you get to confide in an expert. 

Therapy helps a person to heal from the past and provides her with self-awareness. The therapist would help you overcome the problem and it would also help you understand yourself as well as others. 

It would help to improve the psychological trauma of the person’s experience. Therapy offers an open and honest environment which helps to see other important areas of their life apart from the past.

2. Forgiving oneself or self-forgiveness

When a person forgives him or herself, it helps him or let go of the bad things that have happened and stop talking about them.

This happens in the sense that he accepts that he is human and he is prone to making mistakes and as well learns from them. 

He is free from any form of guilt, regret, and self-condemnation. It helps him improve his well-being and productivity in every area of his life. 

Research has shown that people that practice the act of self-forgiveness have a more positive attitude and better emotional well-being. After forgiving him or herself, he’ll stop talking about the past. 

3. Shifting focus

You can help someone to stop talking about the past by shifting the person’s focus from past occurrences to future happenings.

You can help the person by having conversations about current topics or trends, all topics or issues about the past should be abandoned completely. 

When the person’s mind and thinking are away from the past, he or she gradually lets it go either consciously or unconsciously. When the person is focused on present issues, he would have no time to ponder and talk about the past. 

With this method, letting go is pretty easy because his or her focus has been shifted to more pressing issues.

4. Socializing 

Socializing helps to let go of the pressure. When you socialize with friends or make new friends, you tend to talk less about the past. 

During the process of socializing, you gradually let go of things that are bothering you. When you socialize, you go out more and you talk to people more. It is a good way to help someone stop talking about the past.

5. Live in the present

When a person lives in the present, things of the past would no longer be of concern to him. Living in the present will help a person appreciate what he’s doing, where he is at the moment, and those around him. 

Instead of thinking about the past, he is being mindful and worried about what is presently happening. He can stop talking about the past when he begins to live fully in the present.

6. Interruption techniques 

When you want to help someone to stop talking about the past, you can interrupt the person whenever he brings up matters of his past experiences, when you do this over and over again he would have no choice but to stop talking about it. 

Though you shouldn’t be rude about it, you can politely interrupt him whenever he wants to talk about the past by bringing up a more important issue.

7. Self-care

You can assist someone to stop talking about the past by encouraging self-care. Let the person take care of him or herself, not just physically but also emotionally and mentally. 

Encourage the person to be more concerned about his welfare instead of keeping a record of what has happened. Let him show himself or herself some love and kindness.

He or she should also celebrate small wins and achievements because this would set his mind on things that are more positive than negative.


When a person doesn’t let go of the past, he or she is holding on to pain, guilt, and self-condemnation. Letting go of the past would hurt as you need to take a conscious effort in making some decisions and also practice. 

This article has explained what such a person can be called and what it means when a person cannot let go of the past. 

We also went ahead to suggest ways in which you can help someone to stop talking about the past.

The person can try to be kind to himself and as well celebrate small wins as this can help in seeing things from the positive side. With this article, anyone holding on to the past should be able to go. 


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