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 they 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.
3 More Big Reasons To Go Back & 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. Live life being proud of who you are, not hiding parts of you in shame.
“Owning our story and loving ourselves through that process is the bravest thing we’ll ever do.” – Brene Brown
Reason #2: So Fear No Longer Has Its Way
Most anxiety is connected to not processing through and coming to terms with the past. Everyone needs closure. Pain and resentment that isn’t processed turns into fear. It becomes subconscious fear of the bad situation in the past reoccurring. 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 intuition.
Reason #3: To Stop It From Harming You
When you don’t deal with negative experiences from your past, they impact your life negatively 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. If you live there, you’ll never see how what happened to you previously impacts you today. You’ll react to situations, rather than intentionally making choices.
“Gratitude looks to the Past and love to the Present; fear, avarice, lust, and ambition look ahead.” –
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 life timeline.
Activity #1: 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 felt back then.
Step 3: Describe how you feel about the situation now and how it impacts you today. Examples: “I fear abandonment,” “I’m terrified of social situations where I could get embarrassed.”
Step 4: List any questions you have about what happened. 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.
Check out part 2, where I’ll give you 3 more big reasons you to make peace with your past.
Adam Gragg is a mental health professional and life coach. He specializes in life transitions, career issues, marriage and family counseling, and helping people overcome anxiety and depression. He is skilled at helping workplace teams thrive. Click here to find out how he can help you, your team, or you whole organization get to the next level.