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When is Someone Hijacking What We Know [5 Steps to Take]

Harold realized as he was thinking about marrying his partner.

He also had a part of him that was terrified that he’d have to live with these consequences of making a choice – that he’d be stuck with this person, just like he had been stuck as a child.

This hearkened back to his history of having a violent father who could get angry at the drop of a hat.

His dad would be storming around the house.

This wasn’t the case with his partner.  But the wish to be close (so normal and natural) was dredging up these old memories that were getting projected into the present.

What if he got stuck in this relationship and couldn’t get out?

It’s like the fear was swirling around him even though his current relationship was solid; they were working through complications, sure with some hiccups but they were doing fine.

That’s vastly different to how it worked out in his family.

Harold got clear that there were things that were familiar to him.  That sense of familiarity can be a clue to the historical underpinning.

Ahhhh.  That helped him slow down.

In this moment he trusts how his relationship is dealing with profound complications, continuing to grow.  But that was definitely not the way it was growing up!

Recognizing the past intruding brought peace even as he realized he’ll be dealing with the pattern continuing.  The difference is now he could deal with it consciously.

How do we learn the signals of our inner presence, our wisdom?

How do we access that wisdom from inside, so it can flow from inside out?

When are we attuning to ourselves – and when is someone else’s stuff hijacking our own knowing of ourselves?

The only way we can tell the difference is being able to sit inside our own skin. So often we’re scanning the world, scanning other people trying to figure out what they’re thinking and feeling and whether what we’re going to say is going to make them happy or make them like us more.

And so we leave ourselves behind. 

Attunement is one of the primary attachment needs we all have.  It’s very much about being able to stay inside our own skin, checking out what is happening inside?  What are you feeling?  Thinking?  What do you know to be true now?

It’s a good moment to pause to discover what you know about yourself right now….

What’s your internal experience now?

Is what you’re feeling, thinking, sensing completely about this moment?  Or are there tendrils of the past coming into this moment?

Mary Main, the great attachment theorist, noticed the “past is always invading the present.”

When the past flows in the present we are seeing the present moment through the lens of our past imprinting.  That perceptual lens of the past filters what we’re experiencing in this moment. 

Let’s say you want to feel content. The idea of it feels good but then you notice you’re feeling angry or upset.  It’s like there’s a split inside.  The concept of being content is there but there are parts doubting and worrying it would be possible.

The longing is there to be content but the historical imprint is years of disappointment, disruption and fears. 

Here are some steps you can take:

  1. Identify the voices of the past that leak into the moment create a wedge so the past doesn’t immediately take over. Doing so allows us to inquire.
  2. Inquire: How much of what’s going on right now is influenced by the past?
  3. Slow down so you can explore the many tendrils of what’s happening.
  4. Separate out the facts of this moment (from all the feelings and sensations and patterns.
  5. Contrast it with how the pattern was laid down in the past. Where & how is the present similar to the past?

What happens when you take these steps?  What’s missing?  Or needs clarification?

When is Someone Hijacking What We Know [5 Steps to Take]

Deirdre Fay, LICSW

Deirdre Fay, LICSW, has decades of experience exploring the intersection of trauma, attachment, yoga and meditation, teaches “a radically positive approach to healing trauma.”  An international speaker and workshop leader, Deirdre has written Becoming Safely Embodied (Morgan James, in press), Attachment-Based Yoga & Meditation for Trauma Recovery (W.W. Norton, 2017),  co-author of Attachment Disturbances for Adults (W.W. Norton, 2016) as well as the co-author of chapters in Neurobiological Treatments of Traumatic Dissociation.  A former supervisor at The Trauma Center, trainer for Sensorimotor Psychotherapy Institute from 2000–2008, she’s also certified in Internal Family Therapy, qualified trainer in Mindful Self-Compassion, former Board member of the New England Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation which add depth and understanding to these practices. Deirdre is a respected international teacher and mentor integrating trauma, attachment, yoga, and working safely with the body. Visit her website to get a FREE Safe Guide to Healing Trauma.

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APA Reference
Fay, D. (2020). When is Someone Hijacking What We Know [5 Steps to Take]. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 24, 2020, from


Last updated: 8 Aug 2020
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