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The Value of Therapy: Opening the Past…to Create Change and Happiness in the Present

imagesIt can be difficult to appreciate who we are. There’s so much each of us has to offer to each other, and so much to offer the world. It would be nice if everyone could look at themselves and realize the power they possess within themselves.

Unfortunately, it isn’t so easy. We feel the pain, hurt, and rejection  more than we feel the happiness, satisfaction, achievements, general positives, and so on. As a result, we end up with depression, anxiety, addiction, repeated unhealthy relationships, and more.

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could just let the negatives roll off of our backs, rather than holding onto them to the point of emotional injury? Obviously, it’s not a conscious decision. We don’t desire to hold onto the negatives, but when the hits are painful and repeated, eventually we’re going to get hurt. I imagine it more along the lines of rug burn. At first, it’s not such a big deal, but if you experience it repeatedly, it becomes raw and painful.

Emotional injury runs along similar lines. Whether there’s one significant trauma, or a collection of smaller traumatic moments, they start to leave an emotional imprint. Often this is from parents or peers who emphasized the negatives, spending less time looking at the positives. Eventually, we realize that the negatives are more significant and we latch on and internalize critical voice. We learn to become our own critical parents and do it to ourselves, even when they’re not around.

While it would be nice to have been oriented towards our strengths as people, it’s hard to say that anyone really had it easy or perfectly.

People like to ask me, “How do I feel better?”

My response is, “We need to learn about it, understand what it is, where it comes from, how it holds you back, and what role it plays in your life today.” This is a part (among others) of what therapy helps us do — it helps us understand ourselves within the context of our relationship to ourselves and others so we can make changes.

The reality is, while there are many coping mechanisms available and helpful  (I write about many of them in other articles), internal change is more created by understanding who we are, where we came from, and how we developed into where we are now. This is why therapy isn’t as simple as handing someone a set of behavioral skills. I often find that people who have great sets of behavioral skills still come to me  for more in-depth psychotherapy because the behavioral skills often only go so far.

The heavy parts of our pasts tend to carry the anxieties, the depression, the self-esteem issues, and more. We unconsciously re-enact our pasts all the time through our current relationships, but we’re usually not aware of it until we take the time to really learn and reflect. Being able to be in the present and to shed the weight of the past has a lot to do with feeling better. But most often, when people believe they’re in the present, they’re really repeating the past — and when the depression and the anxiety shows up, it means you’re most likely re-living the negative parts in some way.

Don’t worry, you don’t have to fully understand all of this — that’s what therapists are for.

When people can work through the past repetitions, refine them, and learn to see the positives and the potential within themselves, other people, and the world, it opens up new opportunities to create happiness in your life.


The Value of Therapy: Opening the Past…to Create Change and Happiness in the Present

Nathan Feiles, MSW, LCSW-R

Nathan Feiles is a psychotherapist in private practice in New York City. He also provides online coaching nationally and internationally. In his practice, Nathan specializes in anxiety issues, relationship struggles, commitment issues, fear of flying (specialized method), decision-making, creative blocks, depression, and migraines. For more information about Nathan Feiles’s work, including a complete list of services, please visit his website at

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APA Reference
Feiles, N. (2014). The Value of Therapy: Opening the Past…to Create Change and Happiness in the Present. Psych Central. Retrieved on May 30, 2020, from


Last updated: 1 Feb 2014
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