Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Why The Past Keeps Interfering With The Present

One item that will come up from time to time in therapy for couples is that one of them claims the other is always bringing up things from the past.  Inevitably one person always questions the purpose of rehashing things and/or why can’t he or she just let it go?  I carefully explain to my clients that the solution is simple but the execution is difficult.  I like to refer my clients to Stephen Covey’s 5th Habit from his world famous The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.  It is learning to Seek First to Understand, Then Be Understood.   I believe the point Covey was trying to make was when we are listening to understand as opposed to responding; we can learn to hear differently what the real issue or issues are.

This is also another way you can acknowledge and validate the other person’s feelings, which I believe will help you and your partner leave the past behind.  When you really master the habit, you will be able to repeat back to your partner what you just understood them to say in words better than they could have explained them to you.  And there in lies the rub, i.e. the execution – because if you allow your emotions to be provoked then the listening stops and the reacting begins.

So if you want to leave the past where it belongs, then remind yourself when you are faced with it in a conversation from someone whom you care deeply for that they are looking for your understanding and not your defense of the situation.

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