How JustAnswer Works:
  • Ask an Expert
    Experts are full of valuable knowledge and are ready to help with any question. Credentials confirmed by a Fortune 500 verification firm.
  • Get a Professional Answer
    Via email, text message, or notification as you wait on our site.
    Ask follow up questions if you need to.
  • 100% Satisfaction Guarantee
    Rate the answer you receive.
Ask Mark Manley Your Own Question
Mark Manley
Mark Manley, Therapist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 402
Experience:  Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. Over 15 years exp. Married 30 years and happy.
Type Your Mental Health Question Here...
Mark Manley is online now
A new question is answered every 9 seconds

So I had a rather helpful first session with an internet therapist,

Customer Question

So I had a rather helpful first session with an internet therapist, and one of the best bits of advice I received is that I need to stop letting the bad things in my past bother me so much in the present. OK, so really, I knew that already - what I really need is actual techniques for *keeping* myself from dwelling on the past.

Some days I feel very good, but some days it's more than I can do not to think I deserve the difficulties I experience. I am very much a nostalgic person, and enjoy thinking about happy bits of the past. It is unfortunate (and makes it difficult) that I need to spend less time thinking about history. Any ideas?
Submitted: 4 years ago.
Category: Mental Health
Expert:  Mark Manley replied 4 years ago.
I want you to think about something for me. What is your best guess as to why you dwell on the negatives from your past. Let me know what you come up with. Below is a list to get you thinking.

1) I was abused or neglected by one or both parents which resulted in my thinking poorly about my self.

2) I am depressed so I tend to look at the negative side of everything past, present and future.

3) I am afraid to be happy and successful because I will turn into a person I would not like.

4) I was programed most of my life with messages of failure i.e. "you will never amount to anything."

5) If I become happy and successful someone I love will feel abandoned by me.


Please let me know what you find out and then we will go from there.

Thank You.
Mark Manley
Customer: replied 4 years ago.
I spent a bit of time thinking this over last night. The first one might be applicable, and I'm not even sure about that.

As for the first part, my biological father was an alcoholic and one step shy of useless, but I loved him and he loved me. He's probably never done a cruel thing in his entire life. Selfish, unavailable, and absent, sure - but not abusive in any way. My step father was the exact opposite - always there and not terribly kind. I'd stop short of saying he was abusive, but he was not kind. My mother was something of a saint with a short temper, but none of these things made me feel all that poorly about myself. One of my elementary school memories is my mom yelling at me for something or another, at one point calling me an idiot - to which I broke down in peals of laughter, because I was a *brilliant* child. I thought I was ugly and terrible at sports and music and dancing, but I was very intelligent and I knew it.

What I'd have said is wrong with me is that I am very much a believer that you reap what you sow. When I was young and getting great grades and great test scores and great scholarships to great schools where I got great degrees with more great grades. I felt/knew I deserved it all because I was very smart and when I put my mind to something, there was nothing I couldn't do. I feel as though that confidence that I got to make my own destiny is what makes things hard now - because I can see the decisions I made led me to this difficult life and set of circumstances now.

I chose to get married instead of going to grad school or building a career. I chose to make my husband happy instead of doing things that would have been good for me - for several years. At some point, I chose to have an affair because (it's all more obvious in retrospect) it was the only way out of the marriage, all my attempts to leave him had failed. After the divorce, I chose to eke out a living in my old hometown instead of finding a way to return to school to make myself 'hire-able' again in my field. I chose to let my ex-husband take everything - the house, the investments, all our friends... Even the largest chunk of the inheritance I received after my grandmother died. I am here because I made bad decisions, just as when I was at the top of my game I was there because I made good decisions. I know this is not helpful, but I do not know how to break these thought patterns. That's, essentially, why I turned to therapy.

I don't know if that helps. I should also state that I very much enjoy thinking about the past - old long lost friends and those I still have, perfect rose colored memories of times gone by, of when I was some strong young woman instead of the helpless idiot I feel like now. It is the fact that I have fallen so very far that hurts the most, lots of days.
Expert:  Mark Manley replied 4 years ago.
Thanks for the additional information.
What prevents you from thinking in terms of sowing the seeds you need to sow to get the harvest you want? So you made mistakes. You see them, you own them and you know you have the power to change.
Why are you not all about sowing a new crop? Are you too old, too tired, too depressed, too insecure, too shy, too _________?

I am looking forward to hearing your thoughts on this.

Mark Manley

Mark Manley and other Mental Health Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 4 years ago.
hmmm... since the first answer I came to was "too lazy," I'm inclined to think too depressed might be accurate. I did immediately change that to maybe being too comfortable, though, so maybe not...

I think it might be related to insecurity - when I think hard on it, I am very much afraid that if I try to do something on the level I used to be capable of, I will fail. Failure scares me a lot. Right now life is not good but not bad, and at least I get to feel like I'm one of the brightest girls around here. I loved college, with all the folks who were on my level and above, but I feel like I have lost some of that 'something' that I used to have in spades, and I am terrified I will fail if I set my sights above the little I've built here. What a catch 22, now that I'm thinking about it...

For what its worth, I really like your way of looking at it - as needing to get back to sowing something worthwhile if I want to harvest anything valuable. It should excite me to even think about all the options that lie ahead.
Expert:  Mark Manley replied 4 years ago.
The only fatal failure is the failure to try. You need a few worth wile goals and some support people to encourage you. A person or two who will call you to account for your goals and your progress would also be helpful. Visit the past, live in the present, and orient your self by the future.


Let your fears be your guide, and create a future of regrets based on would have, could have, should have.

What are you going to do?


Related Mental Health Questions