Trauma recovery isn’t entirely— or even mostly— about “leaving the past in the past.” 

The truth is, “the past” isn’t what’s making our lives difficult now. 

Our lives are difficult NOW because of what happened in the past— but it’s the “now” part we need to change. 

It can get confusing, because when we struggle with post traumatic or dissociative disorders, it often FEELS like the past is happening right now. 

Flashbacks in particular make it FEEL like time has kind of collapsed right on top of us— and we really do FEEL like we’ve been yanked from the present and transported back there, back then. 

Because PTSD so often makes it FEEL like the past is present, it can be tempting to think that the work to be done is “back there, back then,” too. 

But it’s not. 

The work is right here. Right now. 

The truth is, even if the past FEELS like it’s happening right here, right now, it has already happened— and we’re never, ever going to be able to change it. 

What we CAN change is our understanding of and relationship with the past— and our relationship with and understanding of the younger version of ourselves that lived THROUGH the past…and who we still carry around in our head and our heart. 

In that way, it’s true that in trauma recovery we very often have work to do that FOCUSES on the past. 

But if we focus exclusively on the past, we run the risk of making ourselves unsafe in the present. 

The present is what matters, in the end— because that’s where we are. That’s where we’re living. 

The present his where we’re creating a life, day by day— and the present is the ONLY place where we have ANY opportunity to change, evolve, or choose. 

As we work through our trauma, at every step, we examine how the past impacted us. 

We look at how what happened to us f*cked with our sense of purpose and personhood. 

We acknowledge how people and institutions who should have protected or guided us, didn’t— or, in some cases, were even complicit in our pain. 

We get real about what the past version of us needed— and what happened to that past version of us as a result of not having gotten what they needed (or, often having gotten an imperfect or incomplete version of what they needed). 

But we keep coming back to what we need today. 

What we struggle with today. 

What our current situation is— both inside ourselves and out there in the world. 

I find this to be a major misunderstanding on the part of some people about what trauma recovery is actually all about. 

It’s not about “blame”— though in the process of coming to terms with our past, sometimes it’s appropriate to assign realistic blame. 

It’s not about regret— though of course this processes is going to scrape up LOTS of things we regret. 

But ultimately, trauma recovery isn’t about trying to have a better past, at all. 

It’s not even about the future— at least, not directly. 

Trauma recovery, as I envision it, is about today. Right here. Right now. 

This moment. This challenge. The tool, skill, or philosophy that can get us through THIS thing. 

I don’t know what the hell people even mean when they tell trauma survivors to “leave the past in the past.” 

All I know is refocusing on today— relentlessly. 

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