I’ve had things happen in my past I want to forget. I’ve hidden out, minimized, and lived in denial, acting like I wasn’t impacted at all. Trauma has impacted me, but the hiding from life due to my shame has caused the real damage.
I want my clients to live full and free lives. I don’t want the past holding them back. Frequently I challenge clients to process, and come to terms with, past trauma. Their future, and mine, depends on us facing our demons.
6 Reasons To Go Back & Get Closure
Reason #1: So You Can Be Fully Yourself
You’re the product of all the events in your life, the good and the bad. Hiding from, or minimizing, the impact of past trauma, means living life without being fully yourself. Needing to hide parts of yourself creates deep seated anxiety.
“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
Much anxiety is connected to not processing through and learning to accept past events. Everyone needs closure. Pain and resentment that isn’t processed turns into fear. It becomes subconscious fear of that bad situation 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 intuition.
Reason #3: To Stop It From Harming You
When you don’t deal with negative experiences from your past, they harm your life today. Addiction is one way people avoid dealing with trauma. It’s safer to be consumed by an addictive habit (e.g. substances, avoidance, worry, activities, etc.) then experience the pain of healing. Denial, minimization, and secrecy are strong temptations. If you live there, you’ll never see how what happened 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.” – C.S. Lewis
Reason #4: To Not Be Weighed Down
Your bygones will be a drag if you don’t deal with them. They slow you down and keep you stuck. It’s like running a 2 mile race with a 100 pound backpack. Why would you want something slowing you down? Take off your backpack through dealing with, and letting go, of the stuff weighing you down.
Reason #5: So You Can Live with Confidence
Life has a way of forcing everyone to deal with their core issues. Your junk keep coming back up until it’s successfully laid to rest. People with unfinished business live with fear that everything will implode knowing subconsciously the stuff they’re avoiding will raise its head again. When you work through your pain, you can rest in the present.
Reason #6: So You Can Make Sense of It All
Your mind won’t rest until it comes to terms with what happened. Talking about your past with a friend or counselor can bring clarity and perspective. You’ll start to see how you’ve grown rather than been damaged. Talk about it, come to terms with it, and then you can let go of it. Acceptance is the answer.
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6 Things You Must Accept to Make Peace with Your Past
- The hurt (e.g. abandonment, assault, abuse, accident, death, molestation, ect.) you’ve experienced has wounded your heart.
- You’re worthy of love and acceptance despite going through this experience.
- Your trauma is different than others in scope and magnitude AND worthy of being addressed.
- Yes, there are people who will judge you, AND there are people who will love and accept you through your healing.
- There will be freedom eventually, after you courageously deal with your hurt.
- You must open up to others about what you’ve gone through, but only to those who love and accept you.
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?
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. Examples: car accident, neglect, divorce, etc.
Step 2: List how you felt at the time and how it impacted you. If you don’t remember, list how you think it impacted you.
Step 3: Describe how you feel about the situation now and how it impacts you today. Examples: “I fear abandonment,” “I’m terrified of being embarrassed.”
Step 4: List any questions you have about what happened. Questions for your family, a counselor, or even a person who hurt you.
You can use this worksheet to complete the steps and draw your timeline.
Activity #2: Life Lessons
Answer these 3 questions related to each event you’ve identified as traumatic in your life timeline from Activity #1
1. What could you have done differently?
Example: Nothing. I was a victim, and therefore, really couldn’t have done anything to prevent what happened to me.
2. What did I learn from going through this experience?
Example: I learned that it was not my fault. I’ve seen myself as defective because of what happened, and I’m learning this isn’t true.
3. How can I apply this lesson moving forward?
Example: I need to listen to my intuition with trusting, or not trusting, other people.
Your past makes you beautiful not tainted. Doing the work of going back and getting closure is often the scariest, and most courageous, personal growth endeavor someone can engage.
Ask a close friend or family member if they sense you have unfinished business. Those who love us often have more insight into our issues than we do. If they point something out, use that as motivation to get to work. It will be well worth the effort!
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