People who have survived abuse, experienced neglect, or been through other trauma, tend to live in multiple worlds.
One world is a past that consumes us— even though we “know,” for what it’s worth, that we’re not there now.
Sometimes our past consumes us in that we see it, hear it, feel it— even smell it, taste it— as if it WAS right here, right now.
We experience visual flashes and body memories. We hear voices, sometimes quite literally, that thoroughly convince our nervous system that the past really is present— and we are really quite trapped in it.
Sometimes our past consumes us in how it informs what we think, feel, and believe in the present.
We may have things we “know” aren’t exactly “true” lodged in our heads— but we feel and act as if we do believe those things are true, because of memories and past experiences that we just can’t shake.
Sometimes our past consumes us in the choices we make.
We may “know” that we need different things now than we did then— but we still make choices as if we were who we were decades ago.
Then there are the times our past consumes us in what we don’t remember.
We “know” that we’re being impacted by something just outside of our consciousness.
It’s like getting scared of something we can’t see— but we don’t need to see it to be afraid of it.
We can see its shadow.
We can feel the temperature drop as that shadow draws near.
Whether our past consumes us in what we remember or what we can’t remember, we still know that at least part of our life now is being lived through the eyes and needs of a part of us who is stuck back there, back then.
Many people tend to get frustrated with the emphasis that trauma recovery places on grounding in the present moment.
We don’t see the value in being “present” in a “now” that may very well suck.
The present moment may contain emotional and physical pain. The present moment may contain loneliness. Who wants to be grounded in the present moment?
I know. I don’t think the present moment is all it’s cracked up to be, either.
The reason we need to be grounded in the here and now, though, is to break the hold of the past on us.
As long as part of us is stranded in the past, we cannot create something new.
As long as part of us is stranded in the past, our nervous system is going to be confused about whether what we went through back there, back then, is really over.
As long as part of us is stranded in the past, we’re going to feel fractured and incomplete in the present.
We NEED that part of ourself that is stuck “back there.”
Why do you think “back there, back then” is constantly intruding upon our present awareness?
Because the part of us that is stuck back there is crying for help.
It doesn’t want to be stuck in the past any more than we want the past intruding upon our present.
So part of trauma recovery involves going on a rescue mission.
In order to meaningfully recover from trauma, we need to integrate and unify our Self in the here and now.
Again: it’s NOT that the here-and-now is so great.
It’s that we can’t move forward as long as we keep living in these multiple worlds.
We can’t create a life consistently worth living if we keep getting yanked around between those worlds.
Your past self needs you. And your present self needs your past self.
And your future needs all of you.