We all have pain in our past in some form, big or small. Who among us has not experienced rough stretches, devastating moments, or emotional heartbreak? Pain is an inevitable ingredient of life. What we do with our pain determines how much we grow as a person. To wallow in pain is to remain stagnant.
How do we confront our past? Here are 3 steps.
1. Accept that it Happened
Acceptance of a traumatic event is the first step to recovery. Depending on the severity this may require professional therapy. However, reflective acceptance serves to process it and move forward. For instance, I was bullied severely for a spell when I was in 7th grade. His actions hit the worst spot for a boy in puberty – manly pride. I hid this from my parents because I was ashamed and that denial had negative consequences. It led me to over-compensate trying to prove my manliness. Eventually, I accepted the fact that I was just a scrawny 7th grader not prepared to deal with the fear and shame I felt.
2. Explore the Effect it Had
For every hurt, there is a reaction. We gain valuable wisdom through experience if we use that pain to better react to future hurts. For instance, the bullying incident caused a major negative behavior reaction in me. I was afraid to physically confront him, so I acted out in other reckless ways attempting to regain confidence that had been taken from me. I drank alcohol and smoked cigarettes because I thought it made me cool. I developed a persona of what I thought was a cool kid but was really a kid destroying his future. Before the bully, I did none of those things. Thirty years later, I finally shook the cigarette addiction that followed.
3. Take Action to Make Peace with the Past
When advised to “let it go” how about instead, “let it out?” Beyond professional therapy, there are many ways to practice confronting pain. Writing your experiences in a personal journal is highly therapeutic to the soul. In specialized cases, such as abuse and addiction, joining a supportive community will help draw out the buried trauma and start healing.