How many times have you found yourself in conversations where someone brings up their painful past? It’s the broken record that comes up again and again and all the apologies in the world never seem to make it go away. So why do people do this? And more importantly, what can be done to put the past to rest?
Here’s what’s going on: When a person brings up the past, there is often something they want or need in the present. It’s evidence of what they need right now. It’s a here-and-now problem, not a past problem. That is why apologizing doesn’t work.
Regardless of what happened before, the person bringing up the past is feeling something similar now. They may feel hurt, unloved, insecure, misunderstood, or distrustful right now just like they felt before. They are trying to communicate to you what they need right now. Most likely, what they need is for you to understand how they feel in the present or what they need to change.
Unfortunately, many people do not communicate their needs directly. Some people may not even know what they need. Instead, many people express their needs in the form of complaints. “I need more attention” may come out as, “You never spend time with me,” which would naturally cause you to feel defensive. But defending yourself won’t work because the issue isn’t really about you.
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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 6 Mar 2012
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.
Experts, Y. (2011). 6 Ways to Overcome Your Painful Past. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 12, 2013, from http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2011/11/17/6-ways-to-overcome-your-painful-past/