Dwelling on the past

How do I stop dwelling on the past?

When there have been destructive or traumatic experiences in our early years they can so disturb and confuse us that we are thrown completely off track, we are left dwelling on the past. We know something terrible has happened but we can’t find a way to make sense of it;

  • we don’t know what’s happened
  • we can’t concentrate or think clearly
  • we can’t do the ordinary things that we were doing before like; getting on at school, or developing our talents

We can be so disrupted by experiences that happen to us in the past that we lose our bearings, and lose the sense of who we are.

Traumatic events and dwelling on the past

When traumatic things happen we lose the capacity to follow our thoughts, we keep encountering lapses in memory:

  • distracted, you can’t follow your thoughts
  • you feel alone, isolated and cut off from the people around you

If you went through traumatic events in childhood it is likely that the experience will have interfered with your relationships with your family, and from those around you.  Though you continue to live together you may all be caught up in private difficult thoughts, caught up in rather incoherent and disjointed senses of what happened.


Dwelling on the past traumatic events;

  • a complicated bereavment,
  • being around people with addiction problems
  • a dangerous accident,
  • domestic violence,
  • repeated bullying,
  • sexual abuse,

These kinds of experiences overload our minds.  One consequence of this is that you become more lost in your own thoughts, possibly more private and secretive.

You may not be able to trust your home environment in the way you did before.  Children who go through traumatic experiences often become very careful about how they interact with others.

Where previously you may have been able to relax or lose yourself in play or concentration, these experiences can trigger a state of hyper-vigilance.

The ongoing cost of dwelling on the past

You may look the same and do many of the things you did before, but internally there has been a profound change.

Children who go through these kinds of experiences cannot concentrate or do well at school.

A child in this situation is likely to start to sink where before they may have shown potential.  If they are lucky people will notice and want to know more about that is going on.  If they are unlucky they will be left behind.

Children who go through these kinds of experiences often feel guilty and ashamed about what has happened.  They may feel that the abuse they experienced is what they deserved.  They may feel too shamed and guilty to know how to tell anyone what has happened, or what is continuing to happen.

What can you do if you are dwelling on the past?

If you have gone through something like this in your childhood and were not helped out and rescued, but were left in a situation in which abuse continued, or in which there was no one to speak to about what had happened it is possible that you will still be living through it.

It is possible that it will be very difficult to develop satisfying relationships because by being so caught up in the events of the past your ability to be open with people will be significantly compromised.


It might be helpful to see if you can find someone to speak with about

the way the events of the past continue to dominate your thoughts.

Psychotherapy can help when you are dwelling on the past

You may feel that it would be pointless to speak about things, think that it will make no difference, but in my experience speaking in a confidential setting with another person can have a profound impact.  It may help you:

  • to find a way to open up about the events of the past
  • it will help you to understand and make sense of what happened to you.

Speaking in a regular psychotherapy session may mean that you don’t have to continually use up energy going over the jigsaw of your past, but are able to start putting things together and so can live more constructively in the present.

Contact me

I have a depth of experience of working with people suffering from problems relating to dwelling on the past.

Contact me to arrange a free telephone consultation to discuss how my work might help you.