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Living in the past a gateway to mental illness

The Jonesboro Sun - 4/23/2018

Living in the past a gateway to mental illness

People who are stuck in the past are extremely susceptible to make poor choices. Their inner energy is directed backward toward things they cannot change. Many psychological counseling clients resent and conceal negative past treatment by a family member or someone else they feel has mistreated them. On some level they want to move forward but are drawn back to their unresolved issues. Instead of taking risks to better meet their needs and wants, they blame people and past incidents that no longer allow them to control their actions.

Many modern children find it more pleasing and comfortable to live in fantasy rather than dealing with reality. Today there are many avenues to escape the monotony and discomfort of learning the habits, skills and values of our traditions. Additionally parents have little time, motivation or insight into training them. In the recent past books were available that taught moral values through lessons. The Harry Potter type books, futuristic movies and Internet games have trapped children in the world of imagination. These children have become addicted before they have reached the stage of reason to make good decisions. Many children have unknowingly become exploited victims of the entertainment industry to continue down the road of being consumers of fantasy escape.

Both the people who are emotionally fixated on a past trauma or are in a virtual realm of fantasy are not learning the lessons of reality in order to become productive and functional citizens of the world. Reality is in front of them although they are not learning the lessons they are being taught. They are not open or sensitive to other individuals resolving their issues, instead they are focused only on their own woes.

All people no matter how rich or powerful they are will face failure, disappointment or injustice. The sooner they are introduced to appropriate lessons that reality has to teach, the better able they will be to accept and overcome its challenges. A dysfunctional parent often role models inappropriate behavior and thinking instead of teaching the youngster what to do or what not to do. Nevertheless, many people have learned lessons from abusive, addictive, deceitful or lazy parents. These lessons propel many of them into higher functioning lives.

A person who reaches his potential normally focuses on the future. He is looking forward analyzing how each choice will move closer to his goals. Blaming past events or emerging themselves in a fantasy lifestyle they realize is a detour from confronting and solving obstacles on the way to reaching their objective. They have learned from other everyday experiences that persevering to develop a skill or finding an answer to a complex issue takes concentration and thought.

When a major negative event such as a death, divorce, disease or other unforeseen situation blocks their advance, healthy persons focuse intensely on the issue to find the best corrective response for themselves and everyone else. These seekers of well-being live in the here and now, not in the past. They are problem solvers not excuse makers. They possess personal integrity.

On the other hand, looking back or turning to a diversion to forget about the unexpected harsh reality confronting a person is a recipe for the issues to grow and become more embedded in the person's mind. This approach does nothing to unburden the person of the challenges facing them. The longer the person procrastinates, the more consumed the individual becomes in the unresolved issue. Too many of these people turn inward or to a chemically induced fantasy or other form of addiction to rid themselves of the pain and inability to learn positive insights from life's changing events.

Life is painful enough without being stuck in the quagmire of past events. The longer an individual remains in the quicksand of unresolved issues, the more the person misses the positive events that pass before their eyes. Eventually the pain intensity increases to a level where the person has few options.

Insanity becomes more attractive to the psychologically wounded casualties. Often the depressed person turns to psychotropic medication or street drugs. Alcohol, opium and a wide variety of prescription mood altering drugs are available. These are abused by a frightening number of people. The ultimate solution to severe depression is suicide. It is a quick but fatal solution to their nightmare.

The better answer to personal issues is to confront them and learn the necessary lessons. Understanding the alternative way a person could have interpreted and acted presents insight into the problem. Learning from healthy role models is an effective method of understanding how to resolve issues to better face reality. Thus they could handle their present dilemmas themselves and better face their future.

Domenick Maglio, Ph.D., is the author of several books and owner/director of Wider Horizons School, a college prep program in Spring Hill, Fla. You can visit Dr. Maglio at


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