Saturday, 23 September 2023 03:18 GMT

Why Are Psychotherapists Interested In Your Past?

(MENAFN- Kashmir Observer)

By Wasim Kakroo

WHEN a commoner thinks of psychotherapy, a stereotypical picture comes to their mind that involves the patient lounging on a sofa as the therapist inquires about their childhood. If you have chosen to begin therapy for the first time, it's likely that even though something recent drove you to do so, you'll end up telling your therapist about your past and childhood years. It can be confusing why therapists focus so heavily on the past and are so determined to explore it throughout therapy. It could appear that bringing up the past into the discussion is, at best, pointless and, at worst, painful.

Talking about the past (especially the childhood and adolescence years) is crucial because of how deeply entwined it is with the present and how much it affects the future. The majority of who we are, what we believe, and how we act come naturally from our prior experiences, whether they be from the distant or more recent past. By putting a cause and effect together, we may explain and make sense of our own lives as well as the local environment. We understand that the current circumstance was brought about by something from the past. Consider being in a frightening situation as an example. If I become curious about my first encounters with frightening situations, I might investigate what I was implicitly or explicitly told about them at the time, what the adults present around at that time, did as a result, and the kind of story I have since told myself about similar situations as I have grown up. Knowing this from the past helps me comprehend why and how I tend to feel and act in similar situations that cause me to experience fear or worry in the present.

It can be a very significant and“sense-making” process when we turn to the past with the goal of connecting it to the present. Understanding the reasons behind our actions or thoughts allows us to see things clearly and objectively, as though from a distance. This separation helps us put some space between ourselves and the issue so that we can choose how to react in a way that will be most beneficial to us right now. This is due to the possibility that what we needed in the past may not be what we need today. When we were younger, we may have reacted in ways that no longer serve us or are essential for us as adults.

If our past has been particularly traumatic or challenging, we may perhaps understandably want to distance ourselves from it. But the more we try to forget or dismiss the past, the more we neglect the parts of ourselves that went through the agony and hurt. Our bodies are very much keeping score and will attempt to get our attention in ways that make it imperative that we tend to the parts of us that are wounded or hurting. Thus when their body is somehow reminded of some hurtful thing from their past, we can understand why such people have angry outbursts and big blow ups over trivial matters, or why such people may suddenly find themselves unable to stop crying.

Being in a private, confidential and secure setting provided by the therapist in their clinic, having the professional competence and appropriate tools available to identify particular or important events are necessary for a purposeful and meaningful examination of one's past. In order to move toward a more open and healthier future, it is important to understand how one came to be this way in the“here and now.” It is about using significant knowledge in a meaningful manner to lead us toward the future we want for ourselves. It can also involve learning how to hold tough or uncomfortable feelings that are connected to the past and also how to distinguish between how something felt in the past and how it feels today. If you don't feel ready or have the necessary tools, you shouldn't be forced to talk about your history in therapy. Additionally, it shouldn't also involve arbitrarily reliving and suffering through unpleasant memories or emotions in order to make oneself“feel better”.

How focusing on your past while in therapy might enhance your present-day wellbeing?

Because remembering how tough and painful it was might be overpowering and make us feel helpless over it, it is common to feel uneasy and even terrified while facing our past. We get to give our past new significance and develop new stories about it when we give ourselves permission to gently and carefully explore it. We get more ability to take control of our life and create the future we want by redefining what happened to us in past for ourselves. Focusing on your past during psychotherapy can enhance your present-day wellbeing in a number of ways:

1. Reduces the intensity of your emotional responses that are negative: Some of the usual emotions people feel in the present due to traumatic events in their past includes anxiety, sadness, anger, and guilt. It will be less likely that you will continue to experience similar negative emotional reactions in the present if you work in counseling to“process” these past events by talking about the events and their emotional consequences. Additionally, doing this effort can reduce your likelihood of having intense emotional reactions after being“triggered” by stimuli, environments, or individuals who remind you of the event.

2. Reduces the likelihood that you will have negative thoughts about yourself, other people, or your future: Traumatic experiences frequently have a long-lasting negative effect on the person who has had those experiences. This can include negative thoughts concerning yourself, other people in your life and your future. Your present-day quality of life can be negatively impacted if you frequently have any of those thoughts . Restructuring your thinking about the traumatic experiences, as well as how you see yourself and other people in connection to them, is facilitated by processing them. Your current emotional well-being could be significantly improved by having a more accurate and fair understanding of what transpired.

3. Helps you in recovering from the impacts of the past traumatic events and assists you in spotting the early stages of recovery: The notion that these events are negatively affecting your life and will continue to do so might lead unfavorable events from your past to negatively affect your mood in the present. Counseling can assist you in recognizing indications that you have already recovered in particular ways from the experiences that you may have missed. You can take actions to obtain even more signs of healing and look for other indicators of healing with the assistance of counseling.

While we cannot undo the past, we can honor and face it because we have the capacity to emerge from those dark places by reinventing ourselves and our own future. So give yourself a chance to recover from your traumatic past by discussing it in detail with a competent clinical psychologist. This allows you to look back on your past with confidence and this will thus stop past from haunting you continuously like that unsettled ghost.

  • The author is a licensed clinical psychologist (alumni of Govt. Medical College Srinagar) and works as a consultant clinical psychologist at Centre for Mental Health Services (CMHS) at Rambagh Srinagar. He can be reached at 8825067196

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