Time keeps on Slipping into the Future
…and that’s why we need more than just time to heal all wounds.
By Lydia Waruszynski, MEd
No matter how much our past remains behind us, it still has a way of slipping into our present. It’s normal that we carry our personal perception of our past experiences with us, especially when it comes to our love relationships. However, sometimes the weight of certain memories can be downright debilitating and feel more like emotional quicksand. When this happens, it usually means you probably avoided or underestimated the significance of the pain you suffered in the past. Unpacking your hurt, fears and triggers while assessing your needs for healing becomes essential in order to be able to move forward more freely and feel like you can take back your life again. Once vulnerabilities are identified and old energy is released, not only are you inspired to move forward or enter relationships with more confidence, it encourages you to grow more authentically, too. Ignored, it remains a surefire way of keeping you stuck in your status quo, blocking the flow of change, and allowing familiarity to repeat in the future.
“How frightening is the past that awaits us”. Antoni Słonimski
Our emotional health is a critical part of well-being. Our feelings are important, whether we think of them as good or bad. In fact, we really need to understand that our feelings provide us with the stories we tell ourselves and what we bring into our intimate relationships. Because we often make assumptions based on our emotional history, we often unconsciously transfer onto our partners what we experienced or felt we were dealt in the past. Too often what happens is we blame each other for what goes wrong in the relationship and fail to see the link between our personal lifelong conflicts and the conflicts in our relationships- between the pain or hurt we carry within ourselves and the pain or hurt we experience as a couple. Emotions are like that: every time we have an experience in the present, we are also experiencing it in the past.
This is why gaining a better awareness of the way relationships and emotions were handled in our family of origin is always a good idea. After all, our family of origin is the first place we learned about love. So, too, our expectations around love. This is where we learned about communication and also about what troubled us about our family dynamics -especially around core issues involving anger, fear and hurt. Exploring our personal history can help us understand what from our painful past may be trickling into the present. Ultimately, through shared conversation, we can stay connected to ourselves while we try to stay connected to each other, and not feel like we are collapsing under some enormous emotional weight whenever we try to communicate. Living in the moment in this way not only helps foster awareness and facilitate choice, it also teaches you what may no longer serve you and, most importantly, the (new) direction you need to take.
Letting go of the past is a process & learning to let go takes practice
All of us are capable of having a loving relationship, but it does take some effort, especially the willingness to be uncomfortable with our feelings. Our vulnerabilities are the fragile feelings usually left over from our painful past, even the stuff which keeps us up in the middle of the night and that very few people, if at all, really know about. However, the only real way of dealing with these type of feelings is to feel them, identify and open up with them. In a relationship, it can mean the difference between being fully heard and seen -and staying grounded in the present in response to your partner- or remaining wounded and walled-off, continuing to be plagued by -and react to events of- your past. It can mean lightening the emotional load by finally realizing that perhaps it’s not the load that breaks us down, rather it’s the way we carry it.
The following is an exercise couples explore in my workshop called Family Matters. Asking each other these questions can help us listen to and acknowledge one another -especially our unique emotional history-creating a bridge between the past and present, between the self and other-and profoundly discover a new truth together… in present time.
My Story-Your Story-Our Story
- what is the history of my experience with the emotion of love?
- how did my parents show me they loved me?
- would I consider growing up in my family as being “affectionate” or not?
- what was this experience for me like?
- could my parents tell if I needed affection?
- how did they react to my need for affection and love?
- how do we show each other -as partners- that we love one another?
- what was it like growing up in my family of origin?
- to whom did you go for comfort when you were young?
- could you always count on this person or people for comfort?
- when were you most likely to be comforted by this person/people?
- how did you let this person/people know that you needed connection and comfort?
- did this person ever betray you or become unavailable at critical times?
- what did you learn about comfort and connection from this person or people?
- if no one was safe, how did you comfort yourself? how did you learn people were unsafe?
- did you ever turn to alcohol, drugs, sex or material things for comfort?
- have there been times when you have been vulnerable and found comfort with your partner?
- have there been any hurtful or traumatic incidences in your previous romantic relationships?
- how have you tried to find comfort in romantic relationships?
(Esther Perel, Sessions 2017)