March 20, 2018

9. Conversations in Unfinished Situations from Your Past

Written by Rachel Eddins

girl recalling unfinished situations and experiences Conversations in Unfinished Situations from Your Past: When I was young

In this conversation, you will consciously choose a situation from your past with which you feel incomplete, then re-experience it in detail and create a conversation that will allow you to finish it. It will be useful to choose an experience that stands out for you from previous journal exercises. 

All of us have experienced an unfinished situation in life.

In fact, most of what we call our lives is an accumulation of unfinished situations ranging all the way back to our infancy. For example:

  • If we were thwarted from receiving nurturance as an infant then the need for nurturance will still be active.
  • If a loved one died and the emotional grief was never fully acknowledged and expressed then the need to express the grief may still be there.
  • If someone we loved belittled us and we were afraid to express our resentment, then this resentment may still be active.
  • In later life if we decided we wanted to work in a particular kind of job situation, but we doubted our capabilities then this need to work in that area may still be active.
  • If we left a situation recently where we said “Yes” when we really wanted to say “No” then that is an unfinished situation.

What is an Unfinished Situation?

An unfinished situation is defined as any situation in life that continues to contain a potential for completion. The past is not over until we complete our experience of it and it is our failure to complete our past that keeps us hanging on.

Consequently, instead of completing our past we tend to repeat it.

In this exercise you will get in touch with your ability to complete unfinished situations by re-experiencing the situation and creating a conversation or action to complete it. The difference between this exercise and conversations with persons is that you are placing yourself back in a previous situation and letting the person that you were back then speak the words that could not be spoken.

If there is a situation that occurred when you were ten years old, then you will become that 10 year old again and replay the situation but allowing the ten year old to speak. You will create a fantasy conversation just as you did in the previous exercises and let it play out to its natural conclusion.

Journal Exercise

Step 1: Recall now a specific situation in your life, which you experience as unfinished.

It is a situation that, as you recall it, is associated with a particularly strong emotion or psychological pain. You want to recall a specific time and a specific place and a specific person.

Take a few moments now to reflect on your past and let this situation be revealed to you… Reflect back on life and relationship path exercises you have already completed…

When you have chosen a situation to work on, title it at the top of the page in the form “The time when…” and create a one sentence description of what happened…

Now describe the situation in as much detail as possible using present tense.

Step 2: Describe the facts of the situation that occurred.

You want to place yourself back in the situation and re-experience it as if it were happening now. Describe just the facts of the situation as it occurred. Some useful questions to prompt yourself are:

  • Who is involved in this situation?
  • When did this situation happen?
  • What is happening in this situation?…
  • Who is doing what to whom?
  • Who is saying what to whom?
  • What emotions am I having in this situation?
  • What do I feel physically in this situation?

Step 3: Begin the conversation.

Now, you are about to begin the conversation. Your task here is to speak to the other person in the situation from the point of view of the person you were in that situation.

If you were 10 years old at the time, speak as a ten year old. If you were angry or fearful in that situation, allow your anger or fear to speak. Let each side express themselves and speak directly to each other. You need not predict where the conversation will go but simply allow it to develop on its own.

  • Begin by acknowledging what is happening in present tense as if you were back there and then express the feelings and emotions about what is happening… and then allow the other to respond…
  • Continue this conversation for a while…

After completing the conversation you may discover there is more to be said at a later time. You may want to return to the situation later to allow for a greater completion. Some useful questions to reflect and write on in the INSIGHTS section are:

  • What do I really want in this situation and what is the other wanting from me?
  • What are my expectations in this situation?
  • What is it doing for me to hold on to my feelings about this situation?
  • What can I forgive or learn to forgive about this situation?
  • What am I avoiding in my present life situation that is a repeat of this past situation?
  • What possibilities are available to me now if I choose to let go of this situation?

Go to the next journaling exercise: Cost & Benefit of Negative Emotions and How to Let Go

*Journaling exercises written by Cort Curtis, Ph.D, used with permission.

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