The Past

Why go digging about in the past? Once its gone its gone. You’ve got a very immediate problem in the here and now that’s causing distress. That’s what you want to look at!

The value of exploring your personal history has to do with fish and the water they swim in. Bear with me! When I say the past here I’m not just meaning your life as an adult but what happened to you as a child too. How your family were with you, how you saw them being with each other and how you adapted to that environment. Patterns played out in those first attachments are reflected in our habits of feeling and thinking as well as the way we relate to others.

As infants we all experience moments when our needs are not met. Typically we cry. Sometimes that’s enough to get the attention we need and, if we’re lucky, whoever comes comes consistently enough and works out more often than not what we want so that we feel the world is mostly an attentive, accepting and supportive place. Other experiences are available though. People don’t come, or come inconsistently and when they do the quality of attention we get is unpredictable or becomes predictably unsatisfying or even painful. We learn that the environment cannot always be relied upon. We learn to pay it a particular kind of attention to get what we need or even just to give up and pacify ourselves.

Everybody has a different version of this story but we all have a story. Often we don’t realise we have a story because that story is so ingrained it’s part of how we are in the world, especially the part that’s about what we expect of ourselves and those around us. It’s as invisible as the water is to the fish that swim it. (See what I did there?!)

So the past lives on, impacting the way you swim the world and influencing most of the decisions you make, trivial or life-changing. If you find yourself back in the same place, feeling ambushed by familiar unwanted feelings despite your best efforts , chances are your past experiences are determining your behaviour out of your awareness.

Help with depression, anxiety and stress
Steve Lewis - Psychotherapist and Couples Counsellor Lancaster

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