If you're like me, you avoid thinking about the past because you don't see any benefit in the present. Maybe you find it uncomfortable, or painful. Why stir up a lot of memories that you would prefer to forget? Especially when they involve parents, siblings, or old friends; the very same people you share every major holiday for the rest of your life with. But there are good reasons to look back.
As we learn how our brains process emotion and store emotional memory, it becomes clear that yesterday's feelings influence our ability to make positive lasting emotional connections today. If we want to have relationships that are more meaningful in the future, we must have some insight into our past. In fact, looking back thoughtfully may eventually help you to build better connections with those scary folks gathered around the dinner table.
Everyone has emotional baggage, some more than others. Just take a minute and think about your childhood, there must have been some incidents that upset you. Piled on top of each other, these cause that discomfort at family reunions and let certain relatives get under your skin. Through modern technology and numerous studies we now know that all of these painful memories, especially from early childhood trauma physiologically changes how our brain develops.
So as an adult these changes from childhood have a large bearing on our behaviour and we are not even aware of it. Examine your relationships today. Think about the good and the bad. It should not be a challenge to connect the dots between our pain as a child and our pain as an adult.
Generally speaking, strong emotional memories from our childhood become very attractive to us as adults. That does not mean you actively seek it, you are going to find these situations automatically and unconsciously. For example if your parents had clinical depression or were alcoholics /abusive, the chances are good that you will seek these people out or become one.
We repeat these situations over and over as an adult because on some level we want to correct and heal them. Unfortunately, the result is usually that you get re-traumatized. But this presents you with a golden opportunity to make a conscious effort and break the chain of abuse inherited from childhood.
What are the steps forward? It's time to recognize and change the negative situations we put ourselves in. That can be really difficult. Some people get involved in support programs or therapy. The point is you need to find a safe place to hash out those feelings, find their origin, heal and form new habits. Over long periods of time and extensive therapy, it is possible that the brain will physically change over time and truly heal the long term effects of trauma.