Why Look into My Past?

by Heather Vaughn, M.A.

Let me introduce myself. I am Heather Vaughn and am privileged to join the team of counselors at Redeemer Counseling. I love that this Center was founded on the theme of redemption or the restoration of something valuable.  Redemption is the rescue from ruins or the idea of something buried, lost or dead being brought back to life. It is amazing the way meaning and beauty can be excavated from confusion and pain. How can the stories of our lives be so paradoxical?

Some of my clients come in for counseling because of an onset of intense panic or feelings of sadness that they can’t shake. They want to know what they can do to get back to feeling normal, fearing that things could get worse. Many are open to talking about their past and they gain eyes to see how their past is influencing their present. Others seem resistant when I question them about their childhood experiences, wondering what family systems had to do with their present reality. Isn’t it best to let the past stay in the past?

Counseling has us jumping around through themes and scenes in our lives from now, to past, to future, and back again – somewhat like on the show This Is Us. This popular NBC drama is about a family who had a set of triplets, lost one of them in childbirth, and then adopted an abandoned baby born the same day. The story develops in the present with the 3 siblings in their mid-thirties. The character development is rich because the viewer gets a window into their childhood, the unfolding drama of the present day and a glimpse into the future.

In each episode there is a theme that connects these scenes helping make sense of how their emotions drive their lives. Our lives are like this. We have a history that is like soil where we grew and developed into the people we are today. Making sense of our story can be a powerful force, giving insight into who we are. It helps us identify  coping strategies that we’ve developed to handle life’s disappointments, our styles of relating and the emotional and pain that we store in our bodies. When we are brave enough to look into the rear-view mirror of our lives we grow in self-awareness.  Understanding the impact of people and events from the past gives us space to move out of places where we are emotionally stuck. An unexamined past can leave us reacting in ways that we don’t want and with a lack of  understanding of our triggers.

Often, we are unaware of the rhetoric in our heads and the unspoken rules we impose on ourselves and others. We might know that we over-react sometimes, causing damage to our loved ones, but don’t understand the fuel behind the reaction. We can be like a loaded train full of freight cars that we’ve unconsciously picked up along the journey of life. The freight cars represent the chapters of our lives and the cargo represents the unprocessed anger, anxiety, and sadness that we have picked up along the way.

When a loved one pushes our buttons, we may explode or shut down, not understanding why we reacted so strongly. When we are brave enough to look at our past and process our feelings it’s like unloading heavy cargo from our train. We feel lighter and our relationships flourish. Having the courage to look at our past allows the power of redemption to make us whole as something beautiful is fashioned from chaos. Inviting God to do this work of redemption in us, we open space for present and future hope to be restored. Counseling provides a fast track for maturity, resiliency, healing, and redemption in our lives.

Categories Article | Tags: | Posted on January 14, 2019

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1 Comment

  1. by Cary Humphries

    On January 19, 2019

    Thanks Heather!

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