People come into therapy because they are unhappy, in pain, angry, sad, etc. Essentially, things have gotten bad enough (emotionally, at least) that they realize they need help.

And then they come in for the first visit, delve into the story and their anguish, and because of this initial purging, they feel better. It’s the relief that comes from getting something “off their chest.”

As therapy progresses in the next few visits, however, I often see clients not wanting to go back into the emotional territory of their issue or related issues. They feel better, after all, so why would I want to bring them back into a world of hurt?

“Because,” I tell each person, “you are already hurting. You have been hurting since it happened. You just aren’t aware of it right now.”

What I do is help people remove this shield of denial so they can bring acceptance, love, and healing to the hurting parts.

So here’s the breakdown I give to my clients:

You are ALREADY in pain. Denial, the emotional anesthetic, is just keeping it from you. It is addressing the symptom—emotional experience of pain—but it is not dealing with the issue that caused the pain. What you don’t realize is that the pain is in your body and in your heart; just because you can’t immediately feel it doesn’t mean it’s been resolved or forgotten.

In our culture’s abbreviated manner of dealing with emotional hurt, we hear phrases like “forgive and forget” or “just get over it.” But trust me, that’s not “being an adult,” it’s the Bat Signal for Denial.

So yes, looking into the past may initially seem harder or feel worse, but the truth is that bringing your awareness to the hurt (followed by accepting and integrating the hurt parts) is the only way to heal the problem. As one client described it, “it’s so weird, but after each session, it’s like I feel a bit worse on the surface, but much better deep inside myself.”