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Sometimes you simply can't let go of the past

By West Briton  |  Posted: January 23, 2014

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A PATIENT recently asked me whether we have to "let go of the past" in order to move forward.

She told me that she kept seeing posts on Facebook that said things such as: "Don't look back; you aren't going that way," and: "Sometimes we just have to let things go."

The problem for her was that while she wanted to move forward in her life, she was still struggling with memories of things that had happened to her many years ago. She felt stuck.

I think this issue is quite a common one.

Without doubt, some people continue to be troubled by distressing memories of past events, childhood abuse being the most common.

Often it's not just the memories that cause the distress. Many people also have beliefs about themselves that go with these memories.

So they may think: "I caused it to happen," or: "I'm bad."

Try asking yourself these three questions:

1. Does recalling some specific memories, even briefly, cause you to feel really upset and distressed?

2. Do you have to put energy into keeping these memories at bay?

For example, do you actively avoid talking about them, or stay away from things that will remind you of them?

3. Are you fighting a losing battle in which, however hard you try, you cannot shake off these memories?

If you have answered 'Yes' to these three questions, then trying to 'let go' and forget the past may be an unreasonable expectation. In these cases psychological therapy can be helpful.

Therapy doesn't rewrite the past, but it can make the memories easier to bear so that life can begin again.

WRSAC and CRSAC are organisations in Cornwall to help people who have experienced rape and sexual abuse.

Alternatively, if you call Outlook South West on 01208 871905, we can arrange for a therapist to discuss this and identify the best help available.

Women's Rape and Sexual Abuse Centre Cornwall (WRSAC) – www.wrsac.org.uk

Cornwall Rape and Sexual Abuse Centre (CRSAC) – www.visioncornwall.com

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