Why You Should Deal With Your Past (Part 1)
3 Big Reasons to Go Back and Get Closure
I ask clients, usually during the first few sessions, to tell me any trauma they’ve experienced (e.g. abandonment, assault, abuse, accidents, death of a loved one, etc.). Anything they think could have negatively impacted them.
Sometimes they share openly, sometimes they share with hesitation, and sometimes become defensive. When they open up, they nearly always find it relieving to talk about and process through difficult life experiences.
I want my clients to live full and rich lives, and I don’t want the past to hold them back. I challenge them to process through their trauma. Their future depends on it. Here are 3 BIG reasons to go back and get closure:
Reason #1: So You Can Be Fully Yourself
You are the product of all the events in your life, the good and the bad. Hiding from or minimizing how traumatic events have impacted you keeps you living life without truly being yourself. You will live as if only a part of yourself exists. Needing to hide your past creates great anxiety. Life life being proud of who you are, not hiding parts of you in shame.
Reason #2: So Fear No Longer Has Its Way
Most anxiety is connected to not processing through and coming to terms with trauma. Everyone needs and deserves closure. Pain and resentment that isn’t processed turns into fear. It becomes subconscious fear of the bad situation that occurred in the past happening again. Your attempts to avoid that pain create layer upon layer of sensitivities that keep you stuck. You react and let fear make your decisions, not your heart.
“Owning our story and loving ourselves through that process is the bravest thing we’ll ever do.” – Brene Brown
Reason #3: To Stop It From Harming You
When you don’t deal with negative experiences from your past, they will impact your life in negative ways today. Addiction is one common way people avoid dealing with things. It’s safer to be consumed by an addiction than experience the pain of healing. Denial, minimization, and secrecy are strong temptations for trauma victims. If you live there, you’ll never see how what happened to you previously impacts you today. You’ll react to situations out of fear rather than intentionally making choices from your heart.
So, if you have read this far, I’m sure you’re wondering what the solution is. What does someone do to deal with unhealed hurts? A good first step is doing a timeline of your life.
Activity: Start a Life Timeline
This activity will give you insight into your past, why you have certain triggers (e.g. fears, perspectives, setbacks, etc.), and help you understand yourself better.
Step 1: List any traumatic events that have happened in your life that you can remember. Examples: car accident, molestation, rape, divorce, ect.
Step 2: List how you felt at the time and how it impacted you then. If you don’t remember, list how you think you most likely felt back then.
Step 3: Describe how you feel about the situation now and how it impacts you today. Examples: “I’m afraid of being abandoned by someone I love,” “I’m terrified of social situations where I could get embarrassed.”
Step 4: List any questions you still have about what happened. These might be questions for your family, a counselor, or even the person who harmed you.
You can use this worksheet to complete the steps and draw your timeline.
In part 2, I will give you three more reasons you should address past trauma and some tools that will help you heal. Deal with your past and you will grow tremendously.