Healing Pain from the Past: “The Self Compassion Skills Workbook”:

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If we imagine a 100-year-old tree, we can see that the 50-year-old tree is contained within it. We could count the rings and point to the exact place where the 50-year-old tree is present in the 100-year-old tree.

We can see that the 20-year-old tree and the 10-year-old tree are all concretely present in the 100-year-old tree. It is the same with us.

Every experience we have is recorded in the shapes of connections in the neural networks in our brains.

If a past experience is still impacting us in any way, it’s because the connections that were made during that experience are still concretely present in our brains.

Someday brain imaging technology may become so accurate that we will be able to identify the exact place where our brain stores the experience of our 5-year-old self being humiliated by an older sibling, or our 10-year-old self being bitten by a neighborhood dog.

This is why healing the past is possible. We cannot change what happened in the past, but we can change how it impacts us.

The metaphor of the rings in a tree illustrates how the past can be accessed in the present because its marks remain within us.

We can access how those experiences are stored in our brains and change them.

In fact, neuroscientists have demonstrated that the key to transforming pain from the past is to get in touch with that pain while experiencing compassion at the same time.

This triggers a process in your brain called memory reconsolidation that literally rewrites your emotional response to a past experience.

The memory isn’t erased; it is simply changed so that it doesn’t cause distress anymore.

For this type of deep transformation to occur, all we need to do is to get in touch with pain from our past as well as our compassion for ourselves—both at the same time.

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