Looking Back to Move Forward
Updated: Mar 8
For all of us, 2020 marks not only the start of a new year but also the start of a new decade. Hopefully, you’ve made time to reflect on what the past 10 years have meant to you; and that you’re making time to think about what you want for yourself, your life, your family, and your relationships for the next decade. No, I am not asking you to make yet another New Year’s resolution. What I am suggesting is that you make time to reflect a vision for your future (or a least the next decade). Resolutions tend to direct your attention to what you want. A true vision process is designed to focus your attention on more vital concerns: What are your values? What is important to you? What are your dreams?
However, a step toward envisioning the future that sometimes gets missed or passed over is acknowledging injuries, hurts, pains, losses, and wounds that are still affecting us. You might wonder what could be the value of looking back, especially at the hurts and pains, when you’re trying to dream about the future. The value in acknowledging past hurts and traumas is twofold.
First, our wounds sometimes keep us stuck because of the stories we tell ourselves about those wounds. All too often, we tell ourselves stories about our past pains that are carry with them feelings of guilt and shame. No human on the planet likes to feel powerless, and when dealing with trauma, we sometimes tell ourselves that we could have done or said something different, that we had more control of the situation, or that we somehow contributed to our own injuries. This is the brain’s and heart’s way of clawing desperately for an illusion of control. The value of therapy, bearing witness to someone else in a sacred way, is that these stories that we have told ourselves can be excavated and examined. More importantly, telling the full truth about our experiences can allow us to externalize the “lies” that we’ve told ourselves and get clear about the truth. If your story has you stuck, find someone—ideally, a trained professional—to talk to.
The other value of examining past hurts and traumas is that you can see what you’ve been holding onto. Perhaps you’ve told yourself that experiencing a hurt or trauma means you’re damaged, broken beyond repair, or will always be adversely affected. Healing and recovery are possible. Growth after trauma is possible. For example, many people experience post-traumatic growth (PTG). According to the PTG theory—developed during the mid-1990s by psychologists Richard Tedeschi, PhD, and Lawrence Calhoun, PhD—people who endure psychological struggles following adversity can often see positive growth afterward. Tedeschi remarked that “people develop new understandings of themselves, the world they live in, how to relate to other people, the kind of future they might have and a better understanding of how to live life.”
If you want to know whether you’ve experienced PTG, you have to look at and acknowledge your past pains. You can also ask yourself these essential questions:
(1) What did you learn about yourself and others?
(2) What tools did you or do you use to recover from those past experiences? This is probably the most important step because the tools you have that are helpful may be beneficial in the future.
(3) How can you use the lessons that you’ve learned or are learning to help someone else?
Acknowledging and knowing what’s in your resiliency toolbox can help you take safe & brave steps forward! They can confidence and provide you guidance for your journey ahead.
Finally, knowing how you 'got here' helps increase your understanding that you’ve overcome adversity and your survival skills- so you can also chart a different course forward because we ca tell a full and more complete story about your past pains, challenges and even our successes. Because, we know there is value in sharing...I encourage you to share your 'how you got over story with me on my facebook page, with a friend, counselor, or someone that you trust!
Happy New Years!