People often say to me “Isn’t therapy is just digging up the past?”
Obviously there’s a bit of that, but it certainly isn’t the whole picture. If people think that’s all there is to it, there can be an understandable resistance to starting, because “What’s the point in taking the skeletons out of the closet?”
“I’ve forgotten about it.”
"I’ve dealt with it.”
“It wasn’t that bad.”
“It was bad enough when it happened, so why would I want to relive it.”
To be honest with you, on the last one, I couldn’t agree more. There’s very little point in just digging stuff up just for the sake of it.
You need to know why it might be worth it and what you’re going to do with it once it’s out.
I believe there are huge benefits for at least having an understanding of our pasts. If we have an idea of what from our history may be unconsciously directing our behaviours in the present, we can develop more awareness of these processes and build abilities to change our reactions. This can free ourselves from our unconscious prisons.
Perhaps I can use this therapy metaphor to help illustrate my point. We drive a car by looking out the front windscreen, not by staring into the rearview mirror.
The rearview mirrors are important as they show us dangers and can serve as a safety mechanism. However, you don’t want to drive a car by looking backwards. That would be pretty dangerous and you wouldn’t get very far!
I hope to create a therapeutic journey with my clients, where we´re looking forward to a life they want to lead and taking steps towards that. We have an understanding of the past and can even build the capability to tolerate looking at it from a safe distance.
However, it’s not governing where we go now.
By exploring the past a little, it is possible to gain more understanding of who you are and perhaps why you are the way you are. It doesn’t involve sitting in the pain forever, but it may well involve, grieving and accepting some of the things that have happened.
This can be painful but worth sticking with as the process can help develop a deeper understanding of yourself and more self-compassion. This is part of the journey towards acceptance of the past.
This acceptance doesn’t mean that we have to stay where we are. We can then use acceptance as a springboard to create changes in our life now, introducing manageable steps to help us live differently going forward.
So, I believe that whilst it’s vital that we look in the rear view mirror, it’s more important to keep our eyes on the road ahead and know where we want to go now.
What are the small steps you can take to keep your eyes on the road ahead, whilst acknowledging and accepting where you’ve been before?