I saw a patient today who came in for a chronic ingrown toenail. When we began to go over her medical history, it turned out that she had one particular episode about 20 years ago, which she seems never to have gotten over. This was a surgical procedure which she felt did not turn out exactly as she had wanted. Unfortunately, she could not seem to get past this event even though it was 20 years in the past. It almost seems as if every problem she had in the present was somehow related to that problem in the past. In taking her medical history, I just could not seem to get past this issue with her. Surprisingly, this is not uncommon. For this reason I have installed a little sign in each of my treatment rooms that says, “Don’t spend too much of today in yesterday”.
We all have limits in our lives. Each of us has a limited amount of money, time, physical energy, and even emotional energy. I have found that if we spend too much of this capital in the past, we do not have it available when we need it in the present. For example, if we have spent all of our money in the past, we will not have it when we need it for future uncertain events. In the same way, if we spend all of our emotional energy on trying to resolve an issue from the past, which we can actually never do, then we do not have that energy available to help us when something new comes up.
I have often suggested to my patients that they plan a session where they talk to me or some other trusted person as much as they want to about the past event trying to cover it in as much detail as possible. I tell them to go into as much detail as they feel is necessary, but at the end of that conversation, we will agree not discuss it again. It is then a good idea for them to not allow their mind to return to that event again. This is not easy to do, but one of my favorite preachers used to say that we spend too much time listening to ourselves and not enough talking to ourselves.
If we can accomplish totally putting these types of events behind us, and yes, even forgiving those who are associated with it, then our present lives will improve immeasurably and we will then have all of our available energies to address present problems and concerns, rather than just a portion of it.
I had one patient years ago who dropped by several months following just such a conversation and said that because of putting her particular traumatic event behind her that life had, after 20 years, taken a very positive turn. I know that this has worked for me and perhaps it may for you as well.