Looking backward to move forward.
We tend to focus on the future, where we want to be, and what will it look like, and that tends to be mostly material things. The emotional side comes second place a lot, “I want to feel better about myself”, “I want to feel loved” or “I want to feel secure in my job”. If I have …….., I will feel …….. instead of I want to feel …….. and having …… will help me feel that way.
Given that we are governed by our feelings, flipping them around and following the positive feelings about what we do want can help us achieve the material things quicker. Tapping into the feelings of what we don’t want, can help us to avoid going back to them. Like a magnet, positive attracts, negative repels.
Phrases like the past is the past, are true, however, I am an advocate of looking at the past (when appropriate), more at how I was feeling back then, instead of at what was causing it. Remembering how I used to feel at various times was a powerful motivator to help me move forward, in the context of what I need to do to not go back there.
By being aware of that feeling and then tapping into it, the despair, shame and guilt, the feeling lost, and the inability to control anything can help us remember where we were and pat ourselves on the back for where we are now and what else we can achieve.
We all know what we don’t want “I don’t want to be that person again” (I wasn’t a nice person back then either so get it) so I try to help clients think more along the lines, “What do I need to do so I don’t become that person again” A three-pronged approached. What I don’t want, What I need to do not to get there again, and then where do I want to be? With this, we can form a plan moving forward. We can’t truly move forward if we don’t know where we are coming from.
It's not all about the past and in reality, very little time is spent on this, yes in therapy we will probably revisit some aspects, and this is one of the many tools I give to clients to use, but only as and when it feels appropriate. It can be part of playing the tape forward, another tool. I’ll write about this one in another blog.
There is no need to open Pandora’s Box of our past or go on some hunting expedition. My usual saying is “We start where we start and take it from there, we will end up on weird and wonderful tangents, but what needs to come up will come up” It hasn’t let me down let. Our mind is a very complex thing; however, it is a bit stupid too. It creates a coping strategy for one thing but then doesn’t see that is causing more problems. Ending up on the roundabout with no exits.
Sorry, went on a bit of a tangent there. Back to what I was talking about. In my early recovery, I didn’t revisit the past, I was too fragile, however overtime I did, but it was more on my terms, not flashbacks, etc. Being in control of where my mind went helped me get more understanding of myself back then and it was just for a few seconds. The trick to it is just to go back for what you want, not getting pulled into the labyrinth of the past.
I am 7 years into my recovery and still at times revisit different aspects of my past, may I add still have the occasional flashback, but I know now that flashback has happened for a reason, and there is something to learn about it, so will go with it, or sometimes push it away. A common revisit for me is to go back to when I was craving and would end up walking miles, sometimes in the rain to pick up. I used that when I had no motivation to do anything. “If I can do that to score, I can sit at the laptop to write a blog”.
Thankfully I didn’t have any specific trauma, other than those I created for myself self, I do not suggest this tool for clients who have had significant historical trauma.
My message here is don’t be afraid to look backward, but on your terms, and don’t get pulled in. Go in, have a look, a few seconds as I said, then process it in the now. Having a full perspective on things, with that we can make better choices.
If you feel that there are issues such as alcohol, drugs, or poor mental health that are impacting areas of your life and you want to explore what options are available to you, please get in touch. One thing you’ll never get from me is judgment. I simply want to support you through your journey and find solutions that work for you. It starts with a phone call, don’t worry about where to start, we start where we start, and take it from there.