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Thinking and Talking About Your Childhood

Coming from a therapist, it might sound strange asking you to consider if you might think and talk too much about the unhappiness you experienced growing up. Don’t therapists want you to open up and examine your origins and history? Don’t you benefit from time-tunneling into the shadowy events and murky corners of your childhood?

Well, yes and no. For example, say you took a walk in the woods every morning and thoroughly enjoyed yourself. I’d say that’s a wonderful way to start your day. However, if you had frequent terrifying experiences in those same woods—being mauled by a bear, bitten by a snake, and had contracted a wicked case of poison ivy—yet still insisted on heading into them each morning, I’d wonder why. Wouldn’t you?

To be sure, I’m not in any way speaking here about looking backward if you’ve never examined or have just begun exploring how your childhood connects to your present. If you haven’t taken that gold mine of a journey, by all means, go to it with gusto.

I’m talking about those of you who keep thinking and talking about your parents doing this to you and not doing that. I doubt you even know why you persist in returning to the scene of the crime when you already know who done it. Are you trying to figure out why you were mistreated? Are you trying to decide if you were or weren’t abused or neglected? Are you still questioning whether you deserved the abuse? My point is that once you recognize that your parents/caretakers, not you, were responsible for your mistreatment and that they were the perpetrators and you were the victim, what more is there to know? When you continue to reinjure yourself today by mentally replaying the crimes against you yesterday, you’re doing nothing but reinforcing your pain.

Understandably, many of you persist in questioning why your parents or others did what they did to you. The answer: they were and may still be extremely limited emotionally which has nothing to do with you and everything to do with them. When you’ve internalized this truth, there’s no point in continuing to rerun old, painful scenarios. The problem with doing so is that you turn yourself into a victim: he did this to me and she did that and it wasn’t fair. Of course it wasn’t fair! Once you’ve spent time exploring the past and understand what happened, there’s no reason to dwell on bad memories. Doing so is simply a hurtful habit that reinforces victimhood and robs you of the precious moment. So stay out of those woods and remain safe inside your cocoon of the present.