Recently I found myself in a discussion with a friend who has a background in psychology. She was arguing that past life events and troubles need to be “processed” and “worked through” in order to alleviate current problems. She felt that all past actions would dictate future actions, therefore to understand present problems, the past has to be fully explored. Interestingly, she expressed, with a deep, heaving sigh, that having to do so was a complete drag. She said if you were starting out with a new counselor, you had to “catch them up” with all of your past significant life events. She expressed how exhausting this can be.

While this is an accepted therapeutic approach, it made me question the value of going this route. I also found myself considering the idea that women seem to be particularly prone to going back into the past and picking up every little crumb of what went wrong to explain the present, a little like dumpster diving. We wouldn’t want to overlook any small find! After all, we are the rumination nation. Those tidbits might be useful…to somebody.

trolling the past

I do not mean to suggest that history is irrelevant, but sometimes it is. Irrelevant.

What if you were to consider what was helpful in the past vs rehashing what wasn’t? If you give this more attention, it might be applied to current issues. Look at what works for you, not what doesn’t. If you find yourself suggesting the same thing over and over to a friend, employee or family member, and they are not listening to you, chances are good they are deriving some benefit from their current behavior they are not ready to give up.

When it comes to solving problems, everyone walks through the door with their particular world view, their preferences, and their issues. It is that way with your friends and family as well. One of the most important things I have learned is to ask permission before you tell someone your idea or your solution to their problem. This allows them to experience your  advice as a choice and paves the way for them to really hear you. It takes a bit of self discipline to stop yourself from over-advising, even when you tell yourself you are only giving the help because they cannot see for themselves how much they need it.

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