Not all of us can be like Elsa and just let it go. But that doesn’t mean we have to remain forever frozen in time, stuck in the past because of a childhood trauma, tough heartbreak or worse.
Holding onto past pain, whether it’s emotional or physical, can be toxic and affect our current and future relationships (even if we’re not aware of it), stopping us from moving forward and being truly happy and content.
“Some people try to ‘just get over it’ or ‘just move on...that was the past, you can't change it,’” explains Dr. Nancy Irwin, a psychologist at Seasons in Malibu. But these types of messages are insulting, she says, and slapping a Band-Aid on it will only make it worse over time, perhaps resulting in physical, emotional and psychological symptoms. “People will have to try harder and harder to deny the experience or escape it in unhealthy ways [such as] displaced anger, substance abuse, overeating, rigidity and sleep disorders.”
Dr. Heather Stevenson, a New York-based licensed clinical psychologist, echoes that sentiment, saying that trauma that is not properly dealt with “tends to show up in unhealthy coping patterns and relationships, e.g., substance use or addiction, unhealthy relationship dynamics, negative mood or self-destructive behaviors. And often people compartmentalize or shut parts of themselves off as a way to cope, which ultimately results in feelings of disconnect from oneself and the world.”