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Repeated Visits to Old Hurts vs. A Sensible Examination of the Past – What’s the Difference?

16 Nov

Dear Belleruth,

I have a question about your affirmations.  I have been listening to the Anger & Forgiveness affirmations. This CD (and others) includes the affirmation that "I can avoid re-injuring by myself with repeated visits to past wounds."

Yet, doesn't it sometimes make sense, to examine the past in order to overcome it? What is the difference between "repeated visits to past wounds" and confronting past pain in a therapeutic context?  Please clarify this issue for me as I find it somewhat confusing.

Thank you.
Mike

Dear Mike,

Thanks for a great question.  I can see how this could be confusing and I appreciate the chance to clarify.  I'll probably post this on the blog for others to see (giving you another name and protecting your privacy, of course).

I was referring to the obsessive replaying of a past hurt or injury, where you keep going over and over the injustice and pain of it in your mind, but without resolution or movement to a new place.  It’s not a true examination or analysis with the goal of understanding and tweaking certain behaviors and attitudes that get you hurt – rather, it’s the repeated experience of the original injury and if there’s any analysis, it’s with the purpose (unconscious, perhaps) of dwelling there, not moving on.  

So it just keeps you stuck in the same place, maintaining the same intensity of upset, anger, grief and hurt - sometimes even increasing it- with each replay, because it’s happening to you all over again inside your mind.
 
If pondering the situation, learning from it and getting some closure or distance from it is working for you, that's of course a good thing – and this is the kind of wisdom and perspective that good therapy provides, not to mention talking it over with a truthful, caring, smart, observant friend.   

Often, that if somebody wants to do some guided imagery on this topic, they're likely to be somewhat stuck there and unable to move on.  They’re looking for a way to release the pain, grief and anger and move on, but it’s just not happening for them through left brain analysis.

And by the way, that’s why the imagery focuses on the internal, quasi-physiological metaphor of chords tightly wrapped around the heart and constricting it.  This keeps the listener from going back to the external cause of the hurt and keeps the  attention on the inside of the body and the feeling of being stuck and then releasing the stuckness.  And Emmett Miller’s Accepting Change and Moving On approaches it from another angle, also very effective.

I hope this explains the difference.
All best,
Belleruth

Belleruth Naparstek

Psychotherapist, author and guided imagery pioneer Belleruth Naparstek is the creator of the popular Health Journeys guided imagery audio series. Her latest book on imagery and posttraumatic stress, Invisible Heroes: Survivors of Trauma and How They Heal (Bantam Dell), won the Spirituality & Health Top 50 Books Award