How to Improve Your Relationships in the Present (and Future) by Talking about the Past: Part:1

Getting More Information About the Past

Many people say, “There is no use talking about the past, you can’t change it.” I think it is their idea of how they and other people recover from an event or events that were traumatic. Perhaps it is the only way they know how to deal with difficult painful events and circumstances.

It’s true. You cannot change events that happened in the past. But what you can change by talking about the past is how you think and feel in the present. When you think and feel differently in the present then the future has new possibilities.

There are many ways that talking about the past helps change the present. One way is to get new information about the past.

An example of this happens in the movie “The Mermaid Chair”. A woman who’s beloved father died when she was 9 goes back to care for her troubled mother. At the time of his death, she was told that her father had died when his boat exploded out at sea. She was not told that,in fact, her father had been terminally ill with a debilitating disease and that he killed himself. Her mother and several other people colluded with each other to assist in his suicide and make it look like an accident. The reason for their secrecy was that the father did not want to live and yet did not want his daughter to think that he abandoned her. (I’m not saying it’s a good movie but the plot makes for a good example). What the young girl had concluded was that she was to blame for his death because, against her mother’s wishes she had given her father a pipe. He would smoke his pipe when he went out on the boat with her. She created a fantasy about how the sparks from his pipe had caused the explosion. Over time, her fantasy became her truth. Because she had disobeyed her mother she never told anyone that she thought his death was her fault.

While she was helping her troubled mother she found the pipe in her mother’s belongings. With this new evidence she realized that she had not been responsible for his death. Her mother and the others told her the truth about his death. All those years she had carried the burden of his death on her shoulders unnecessarily. Finding out the real truth from the past changed how she felt about herself in the present and would influence how she lived in the future.

Thus getting new information by talking about the past can change the present. This can be healing.

With care and concern,

Dr. Bea Mackay

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