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How to Cope with Pain from the Past

How to Cope with Pain from the PastOne of my favorite quotes, referenced in a piece on Tiny Buddha, states:

“If you get lost in a trigger that thrusts you to a painful event, take a deep breath and remember: we can’t change that we’ve been hurt before, but we can choose not to suffer now.”

That sentiment — that we can’t change the past, but we can choose not to suffer now — struck a chord. I’ve been through many emotional downs in previous relationships (especially one significant romantic relationship) and therefore hope to embody this approach. The past can be a cautionary tale, a reminder that we’ve endured pain, but we made it to the other side and learned from the experience.

When triggers manifest, when insecurities resurface, we can remain present and infuse self-awareness into the moment.

I acknowledge that yes, this was an issue that occurred in a past relationship — this was a source of hurt. Perhaps it was an aspect of myself that I longed to remedy, knowing that it did not serve me well. Perhaps it was others’ behavior that resulted in insecurity and heartache and a particular weariness in regard to trust.

“These associations can be limiting, and sometimes downright paralyzing,” Lori Deschene said in the post quoted at the beginning of this piece. “They can cause physical and mental sensations that are completely unrelated to our present circumstances. In short, they divorce us from the present and thrust us into a painful past.”

Whatever the trigger may be, I reiterate that that was then. And in the now, I realize that I’m viewing this current relationship through a past lens. With that understanding, I regroup and collect my thoughts. I rework my inner monologue from “this is an issue” to “this was an issue; it’s the past rearing its ugly head. I’ll just have to face it, so I can move forward.”

The past is home to some pertinent life lessons as well. Previous insecurities can be reminders to learn and grow and change accordingly. Past experiences, as unsettling as they may be, can help shape who we are in a positive light.

Furthermore, when confronting an old wound, be kind to yourself. Replace self-deprecation with love and forgiveness. You can forgive your younger self, too.

Ghosts of the past may reappear, haunting us when we least expect their presence. However, when those moments ensue, we have the control and power to cultivate a healthy response. Awareness can be fostered, distinguishing the past from the present; we don’t have to allow the past to infiltrate.

“The past is over,” Deschene said. “What happened, happened. Today is a new day and freedom comes from seeing it with new eyes. It comes from recognizing what’s going on in our minds, and then choosing to release your thoughts and feelings. We all deserve to be peaceful, but no one else can do it for us.”

How to Cope with Pain from the Past

Lauren Suval

Lauren Suval studied print journalism and psychology at Hofstra University, and she is a writer based in New York. Her work has been featured on Thought Catalog, Catapult Community, and other online publications. Lauren's e-book “Coping With Life’s Clutter” and her collection of personal essays, “The Art Of Nostalgia,” can both be found on Amazon. Lauren's latest E-Book, "Never Far Behind," a collection of poetry, is available on Smashwords, Apple Books, Barnes and Noble, and Kobo. She loves to be followed on social media, including her Facebook Writing Page,

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APA Reference
Suval, L. (2018). How to Cope with Pain from the Past. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 26, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Jul 2018 (Originally: 26 Nov 2014)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Jul 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.