Working Through Pain
Going Deeper: Working on a Painful Past
There are many life experiences that leave us feeling lost, confused, hurt, and in emotional pain. When these moments arise, there are moments of desperation and pleas... “if only I can get --(insert the cure-all here… money, love, bigger and better stuff, etc)--then I will be better.” These moments make us feel there is a solution out there in the world and if we can just GET it, we will be better.
The history of human experience tells us that even when we “get” what we’ve been yearning for, we are only temporarily satisfied. The relief from our loss, confusion, and pain deceives us into feeling like everything is right in the world, and this feeling can last a varying amount of time. Years, months, weeks, days...the shorter the period of satisfaction, the more dissatisfied we become with our overall lives. The dissatisfaction stems from deeper, unresolved issues. And if we take the time to deal with the deeper, unresolved issues, we can finally see how much was missing.
So what stops us from approaching the deeper issue? Pain. Shame. Anger. Embarrassment. These emotions, among others, are common barriers and keep us from living from a deeper place. The bigger problem with letting the past linger unresolved, is that we often become blind to its influence. We can’t really get a grip on the emotions associated with a painful past until we realize that there is very little we can do about what has happened to us. The good news, however, is that we get to determine what the attitude towards past experiences will be. We can decide how to make those experiences shape our future. We can determine what our outlook on those circumstances will be. This is truly where the power lies.
There are many “success” stories of individuals who have overcome great adversity. We look at individuals like this and think “I know that person’s history, how on earth did they become someone totally different?” The hard work, the empowerment that comes from owning your past, the support from trusted counselors and mentors… all these factors can really make a difference in transforming a negative past experience into wisdom for a brighter future.
If you find yourself saying, “If only I had…. then everything would be right,” then it may be time to do the hard work of digging deeper. Call on a mentor, trusted friend, a counselor, life coach--someone who can be right there with you. Sometimes it can be a challenge to get started. Here are several steps to getting started with dealing with a painful past:
Acknowledge the past pain
Seek counsel or trusted advice
Confront or approach people who have hurt you (with help, counsel, and smart guidance)
Shift attitude and thinking
Recognize moments when the past influences your present life
Plan for how to deal with “pop-up” reminders of pain and difficult emotions
Dealing with the hard emotions is not easy and takes repeated practice. What we can attest to is that it will be worth it in the end.
Written by Dan Hall & Josi Garcia. Dan Hall has a Bachelor of Arts in Education and a Masters of Divinity. With over 25 years of ministry experience, Dan has served as a Pastor, Church Planter, Transitional Leader, Mentor, and Coach. Follow more of his writing on his blog, Voce. Josi Garcia is the Co-Founder of ZimZum Consulting Collaboration. She is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst, holds a Masters degree in Special Education, and has experience working with schools and families supporting individuals with special needs.