Center for Shared Insight, PC

You Are Not Afraid of New Love, You Are Afraid of Old Pain

November 17, 2020
|
Posted By: Kristen Hick, Psy.D.
Couple overlooking the city

When I recently read this line on an Instagram post, I quickly jotted it down, eager to share it with my clients as a succinct way to explain something we often discuss in sessions at my practice Center for Shared Insight in Denver, Colorado. As a therapist, I regularly see how clients are reacting to old wounds through their current behaviors, and this was so well-put: “you are not afraid of new love, you are afraid of old pain”. 

When you are reacting to old pain in your relationships, you will often use protest behaviors, may be highly reactionary, and avoid trying to understand the root causes of your feelings. Instead, you may have the tendency to spin up stories about what you think is happening, use distancing techniques, or even find things wrong with your partner as a coping mechanism - to keep you safe.

In this post, we dive into the behaviors that you might exhibit if you are reacting to old pain, how you can build awareness, and, instead, embrace new love and possibilities.

Protest Behaviors

When you think about the word “protest” you might consider a group of people who are looking to draw attention to an idea they feel strongly about. Or, you might automatically think about a child who is throwing a tantrum to get attention because they don’t feel heard or seen. Adult protest behaviors seek to accomplish the same thing, yet usually in a more subtle way. Protest behaviors for those reacting to old pain might look like establishing firm boundaries to prevent closeness, such as dismissing the opportunity to spend time together and creating space in the relationship as a way to protect oneself. These are coping mechanisms to overcome the fear and possibility that history could repeat itself and a new partner will hurt you in the same way that an old one did. These behaviors might include making excuses for closeness, avoiding intimacy, or sabotaging the relationship in an effort not to get hurt.

Reflection and Healing

Similarly, those who are reacting to past pain tend not to want to address it because it is so difficult to reflect upon. Take an emotionally abusive parent as an example. If someone had love modeled to them in an emotionally abusive way and that is bubbling up in their existing relationships, it might be too painful to look back, reflect, and work through that past pain. That might be too much for someone to address without significant support. If you know that you have past trauma that is still impacting you today, because there are common patterns in your relationships, it may be time to talk with a therapist about how you can address and work through past pain and trauma in a manageable and incremental way. Beyond therapy, there are other healing modalities that can help you overcome a tendency to react to current situations in the context of past pain. Ranging from yoga and journaling to corrective experiences and even opportunities like EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing), the ability to work through and beyond past pain is often a multifaceted process.

At Center for Shared Insight, often clients don’t recognize that they are responding to unresolved trauma and pain and acting it out in their current relationship. Their partner might activate old wounds without even having a major disagreement. If you have ever been surprised by the reaction of a partner and felt that it was significantly more dramatic than necessary, your partner is probably reacting to an old wound or spinning up a story based on the past.

Our work as therapists first includes helping clients identify what they are truly reacting to, and then helping them better understand how they can address the core issues of their past without acting them out with their partner. Once that is achieved, most often the issues in the relationship go away or subside significantly because they are addressed at a deeper level. 

If the ideas in this post resonate with you, please contact our team to learn more about how the team at Center for Shared Insight in Denver Colorado can support your healing.

Related Blog Posts
August 12, 2021
Dating Resources: Books, Podcasts, & Ted Talks

Just knowing that others are experiencing the same challenges and dynamics in relationships is sometimes comforting. That’s why we have compiled this list of resources for you to learn from other professionals who are willing to share their knowledge, research, experiences, and learnings so that others may feel less alone on their dating journey. 

Here are some top resources we often share with clients at Center for Shared Insight (some of them are even produced by our therapists!) to support their dating journey and we hope they also provide ...

July 9, 2021
3 Ways to Overcome Online Dating Fatigue

It’s Friday night and, again, you wish that your weekend plans included time with a romantic partner. Maybe you’ve been sifting through online dating profiles for months and have gone on a handful of dates, but nothing has materialized. You log into one of your online dating apps and you almost feel a sense of dread as you again look at recent matches, views, and likes. 

Does this sound familiar? Is online dating, or even dating in general, becoming a chore and leading to dating fatigue? Are you starting ...

If you have difficulty using our website, please email us or call us at (720) 644-6698
View the ADA Accessibility Statement
This website is designed for general information only. The information presented on this site should not be construed to be formal psychological or mental health advice or treatment nor the formation of a therapist-client relationship.
Any surgical or invasive procedure carries risks. Before proceeding, you should seek a second opinion from an appropriately qualified health practitioner.
CSIP UPDATE - Offering Online Therapy sessions (to COLORADO residents) during Covid-19.
 
Our therapists are here to help you during this uncertain time. We know you and others are trying to do your part to social distance due to Covid-19, which is why we are happy to provide online therapy sessions through our secure video platform. We are here to talk with you about how we can meet your therapy needs. 
 
Contact us today to learn more!