When Past Pain Persists

The value of the past may not be evident to most of us. Life events can be disjointed. And we may find difficulty sorting out a common theme.

Once I listened, rather quite intently without saying a word, to a 50-year-old woman. 

In therapy, recalling her own mother’s abuse and abandonment when she was a child made things harder for her.

Eventually though, she’s able to successfully make a connection. Between that painful part of her life and her current addictions and marital dysfunctions.

The hard part about our most important stories is, they have to be experienced first ... before they can be spoken.
Dr. Sigmund Freud writes, “We live the painful parts of our past through behaviors first before we are able to retrieve them as memories.”

He means that when someone has a persisting past pain, she extracts it not from memory but from her repetitively hurting behaviors first.

She repeats the pain of the past “without of course knowing that she is repeating it.” 

The repetition of past pain through present behaviors indicates where one needs to recover.

Usually, it’s healing of memories from which one has been imprisoned or exiled. Even for decades.

In psychotherapy, we persist in the effort to sort through this maze - the unfinished business of our past.

We make sense of our past painful memories. With this, we may finally come to terms with the past or pain itself. 

We heal ourselves by owning and joining the separated parts of our lives into an integrated whole.