Insight for the Journey: The Present Effects of the Painful Past
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Insight for the Journey: The Present Effects of the Painful Past

Whenever you go through a hardship or a difficulty there are several important considerations. The first, is the devastating nature of the actual event, the second is the way the experience affected you. I tell my clients: “I care deeply what happened to you in the past, but I care even more about what you began to think and believe because of what happened in the past.” How has that experience affected you moving forward? What did you begin to think and believe about yourself, other people, God, and the way the world works? For some people, the frightful trauma is made ten times worse by the crippling beliefs that began after the trauma. These beliefs follow the categories mentioned above, such as people are unsafe, men cannot be trusted, God doesn’t care about me, I am inferior and inadequate, I’ll never catch a break, and life is nothing but pain and disappointment.

Changing What You Can
As the negative thoughts and discouraging beliefs are rehearsed, they gain momentum and dig in deeper. These beliefs become generalized to a wider array of circumstances and situations. Soon the victim is guarded and depressed, looking for bad things to happen in every area of life. The trauma survivor may become increasingly paranoid and mistrusting. You cannot change what has happened to you in the past, but you can change what you think and believe about yourself and the world around you. You can change your thinking!

Challenge your belief
The negative rehearsals are often inaccurate and distorted. As a strategy, identify the exaggerated thought as it begins to replay. Refute it in your mind, saying: “That’s not true, it’s distorted, and I won’t accept it.” Then begin to rewrite and rehearse your own script. “I can get through this. I am making progress. Yesterday’s trauma is not an accurate predictor of today’s events.” Changing your thoughts and beliefs is the single best place to start. Even though you can’t rewrite history, you can at least write a positive and hope-filled future.

Recovery is a journey. Enjoy the ride!

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