In a past blog I mentioned some of my favourite phrases to use that apply to CBT and are easy to memorise. When we look to the past, the phrase I discussed was “I should have vs. I could have”. This phrase shows how we speak to ourselves in the past tense, “should” shows a right vs. wrong and “could” is showing possibility without blame. I should have parked around the front vs. I could have parked around the front.
When it comes to the past, another phrase I like is “It Hurt(s)”. When it comes to hurtful, negative or traumatic experiences in the past, CBT looks at what we have learned from a cognitive and behavioural point of view. What is not looked at often is the emotional pain that can come with these past experiences/events. Without taking away from the severity or diminishing what happened in any way, CBT looks at how we are bringing these emotions from the past into the present.
An example I can think of would be: I was in a serious car crash and now when I get into a car, all I can feel is intense fear and anxiety which is stopping me from entering the car. From a CBT point of view, we would look at the thoughts that are arising that are engaging the fear/anxiety. As we challenge and look at the evidence of the negative thoughts we start moving from a place of “It Hurts” to “It Hurt”.
When we use the phrase “It hurts” when associated with a past event/situation then we are carrying pain from the past into the present. When we are able to say “That past event/situation hurt” we are not taking away from the severity but are acknowledging the pain and hurt that event caused without letting it affect us too much here in the present.
The theory behind CBT and past events is to “acknowledge”, “accept”, “Challenge/evidence”, “forgiveness” and “Moving forward”
Acknowledge – Recognising what happened, looking at all the facts and where you might be putting too much blame/shame on your part in the event.
Accept – Accepting what happened, this can be a hard part as sometimes we just don’t want to accept that something really bad could have happened. Acceptance is not putting a positive or negative spin on the event or taking away from what happened. It is simply acknowledging what happened or a willingness to tolerate a difficult situation/event.
Challenge – Look at the evidence behind any negative associations that you are to blame. “If I was not driving that evening then I would not have been in a crash” – This is a true statement but lacks validity as it falls into the bracket of “hindsight” and we cannot blame ourselves for something we could/did not anticipate
Forgiveness – Most important here is being able to forgive ourselves for our role (if any) in the events that have happened. I never push to forgive other people as I believe this isn’t something for anyone but the person to reason out and see if they want to forgive or not, but I do push for forgiveness on self.
Moving forward – This is the part where we try and move to “It Hurt” – That crash was really bad and was really traumatic, but I am trying not to let it affect me too much today
As always I hope I explained the term “It Hurt(s)” well enough and hopefully another tip when we look to the past.