Processing emotions from the past

We all experience emotional events during our lives that we all wish we could forget and leave behind us. Situations that involve loss, betrayal, violence and abuse, and also misconduct on our part! Oftentimes these events will come back to haunt us through memories, thoughts and emotions. New events will trigger emotions related to the past experience and we may feel overwhelmed and frustrated that the emotions from the past are still very much alive. Or sometimes it is more unconscious and emotions and trauma are experienced in more somatic forms – headaches, back pain, poor sleep etc.

It is important to recognize when an issue from the past is not fully resolved and is causing problems in the present. Emotional processing of the past event is key as well as addressing distorted thoughts that are keeping the event alive. Actions such as forgiving others and oneself are also important in recovering from the past – it makes a contract with yourself to let go of wrong-doings and put closure in place.

The important thing to do is face the experience again instead of what we tend to do —AVOID. We avoid thinking about upsetting things to avoid the emotions that come with it but this is just burying the problem only for it to bubble up and interfere with our lives at unexpected times. Avoidance is the wrong approach, being open to exploring thoughts and emotions will promote cognitive and behavioural change to help us free ourselves from the past.