Resolving the Unresolved

When resolving the unresolved, we will find that there is cognitive work to be done but also emotional or what is called experiential work. The cognitive aspect of the healing work means gaining insight into how we were affected, verbalizing the experience, and identifying what meanings we assigned to the event or experience. These meanings we assigned to a past event or even a present event or experience are called appraisals. These are our perceptions of events or experiences; how we appraise events or experiences. We will learn to always be aware of what appraisals or meaning we are making of each situation.

We also learn to assess whether these perceptions, meanings, or appraisals are accurate or rational. When are perceptions of present interactions or experiences are colored with the past, they tend to be not accurate or distorted. We also learn to identify our core fears. If there is a core fear operating, it can cause us to constantly perceive or interpret present events through the lens of that fear. Some examples of a core fear are: a fear of failure, loss, powerlessness, fear of not being in control or of losing control, of being hurt, making a mistake, or of being vulnerable. When core fears are not being addressed, they can cause us to react to threats that are not there or cause us to be afraid to step out of our comfort zone. We work to identify and verbalize our core fears, where they are coming from, and then assess what is the probability that they would actually come true. We also learn to identify avoidance behaviors. Where there is fear, there is often avoidance. We can live life avoiding anything that reminds us of or triggers our core fears. The more we practice avoidance, the more it reinforces our fears. It is precisely when we do the thing we fear that our fears dissipate. Once we are able to discern between the past and the present, we will need to get up and out any emotions still left from that past event. These emotions could be fear, anger, grief, and powerlessness. Tears may and often need to be shed. Tears are cathartic and healing. We do not get stuck or stay in this stage, we engage it fully, so we can pass through it and come out on the other end free of those painful emotions that have been weighing us down. We may also need to change behaviors in the present. We will need to start responding to the present for what it is and not as though it is the past. In doing this, we unlearn unhealthy ways of relating and have new experiences which are healing in themselves. Once the work is done in the present, that never got done in the past, we will find that we feel lighter, less reactive, more relaxed, peaceful, joyful, and able to engage the present for what it is- the present. We will also find ourselves better able to be in the present moment. We also find that we are better able to show and receive the love of God more fully. We may notice that recurrent dreams cease and any somatic symptoms fade away as the we accomplish the closure and mastery of a unresolved event. The mind let’s it go and we can more fully engage the present. This work is not easy and there are times where it may seem like two steps forward and one step back before moving forward again. This is normal and we will need to be patient and merciful with ourselves. We also cannot do it alone. We need a guide. We cannot always see ourselves as we are; even with astute insight and self-awareness.We will at some point need an objective person to offer feedback, interact with, and ask guiding questions. Some of the emotional or experiential work may at times benefit from role-plays in which someone else sits in the role of someone from the past or present (or even represents another part of ourselves). This gives us the opportunity to have the interactions that never happened but should have happened. It can greatly accelerate our path to closure.

About Fr. Joshua Makoul

Fr. Joshua Makoul has been serving as the Dean of St. George Cathedral in Pittsburgh since 2012. Before that time, Fr. Joshua worked in the Counseling Field for 16 years. This involved work in a family-based, school-based, and an outpatient setting. Fr. Joshua received two years of training in family therapy at the Philadelphia Child Guidance Center and completed a one year certificate course in Cognitive Behavior Therapy at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine. During his last six years working in a small outpatient group, he was supervised by Dr. Jesus Salas who supervises at the Beck Institute in Philadelphia. Fr. Joshua received his Masters Degree in Counseling Psychology from Chestnut Hill College in Philadelphia and his Bachelors in Psychology from Moravian College in Bethlehem, PA. He is licensed in the state of Pennsylvania for counseling. For seminary he attended Holy Cross Seminary in Boston and received an M.Div.

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