Learning to process and accept our past is a necessary step in one’s search for adulthood. Instead, people often choose neurotic suffering as a way of coping with painful memories. Neurotic suffering consists of coping mechanisms that put a salve over our wounds. Rather than confront one's painful past, adults will convert their grief into physical symptoms, and mask their losses through over-activity, intellectualization, avoidance, self-blame and projected anger.

Neurotic sufferers ignore the stop signs, transcending their grief as if it weren't there. They pretend that everything is running smoothly, ignoring what their bodies, mind and feelings are trying to tell them. They diminish the truth in the pursuit of coping, choosing to ignore their emotional distress.

Holding Ourselves Together

Anxious sufferers hold themselves together like a ball of yarn. They fear that if one strand were pulled from the ball, they would slowly unravel into a mound of scattered threads. However, protecting oneself from the realities of the past eventually creates insurmountable fatigue. One's sympathetic nervous system reacts to the stress of trying to ignore the reality of stored and unprocessed psychic pain.

We must move through our grief and loss in order to get to the other side. There is no substitute. We cannot short-circuit the grief process without paying a price consisting of unnecessary suffering. Grieving our pain allows us to legitimately navigate our loss, finding closure over past perplexing problems.

Mourning and releasing our losses takes time. There is no way to short-circuit the process. There are strategies that we can employ to facilitate moving through the grief process. Here are a few ideas:

• Share one's painful narratives with friends.
• Seek the emotional support of family.
• Journal one’s thoughts and feelings.
• Write a letter (not to be delivered), focusing on the impact of a significant other as you grieve the loss. Explore difficult emotions and thoughts.
• Give up the illusion that people (particularly our parents), will change into the people we have always wanted them to become.
• Face our mortality by grieving the aging process and its affect on us.

Learning to Get Our Power Back

Once we face our grief, our past will no longer have power over us. We are freed from being straddled with false guilt, remorse, regrets, and the inability to connect on an emotional level with others. Grieving is like peeling an onion. There are layers, and it takes patience and persistence to navigate through our turmoil.

If one holds tightly to metaphors of pain, refusing to acknowledge its presence and impact, the lack of resolution creates the conditions to foster self-defeating thinking and behavior in the present. Often, individuals who have thwarted the grief process, continue to play out interpretations and narratives of behavior similar to scripts present during childhood. Individuals may have failed to squarely face their painful past - as interpreted through the eyes of a childhood burdened by emotionally unavailable parents. They may never have come to terms with the pain generated by those who failed to love them unconditionally.

Saying Goodbye to the Magical Illusions

People, who experience the pain of a turbulent childhood, often cling to the illusion that someday their parents will magically morph into the loving parents they longed for. Rather than swallow the "bitter pill" of how our parents dealt with us, we continue to hold out hope that someday, somehow, they will change. By holding out false hope, we minimize the significance of promises un-kept, thus cutting ourselves off from the part of us that needs individuating.

The search for adulthood involves recognizing the power of our painful past, creating and releasing it, and learning to rationally respond with fresh interpretations in the present. The search for adulthood involves finding integrity, authenticity and adventure. By appropriately grieving roadblocks from our painful past, we are able to move forward and become adaptive, functioning adults in the present.

Author's Bio: 

James P. Krehbiel, Ed.S., LPC is an author, freelance writer and nationally certified cognitive-behavioral therapist practicing in Scottsdale, Arizona. He works with individuals who experience anxiety, depression, unresolved grief, autistic spectrum disorders and pain management issues. James is the featured Shrink Rap columnist for TheImproper.com, an upscale arts, entertainment and lifestyle web magazine. He has contracted with New Horizon Press to publish his latest work entitled, The Search for Adulthood: Saying Goodbye to the Magical Illusions of Childhood. This book is about the impact of “unavailable” parenting on adults and the people they become. James can be reached at www.krehbielcounseling.com.