Note: In no way should you think that repeated bad memories or
thoughts are entirely the result of secondary gain. One doesn't
ordinarily have disturbing thoughts, high stress, bad dreams, and
other symptoms just to get attention and support. Life is much more
complicated than that. Nevertheless, it would be foolish to believe that
there are never any payoffs derived from others discovering that
someone's life has been difficult and traumatic.
As we become more aware of the possible pay offs for having our
bad memories and for believing our own explanations so firmly, we
may become able to consider more complex and realistic explanations
and to appreciate the intricate development of our problems over time.
With a more open-minded approach, you may find new factors that
could contribute to your understanding. As an illustration, see
the single cause in chapter 14. Reality is complex. If you believe
someone else is entirely responsible for your problems, you may not
want to think differently but a better understanding of determinism
This increase in awareness, however, may become personally
threatening. You might want to avoid thinking so much about the
causes. You may feel very mixed about the idea of your personal traits
and needs contributing to the bad situation. It is tempting to give up
trying to understand but you may suspect it is important to realistically
understand the traumatic situation and your reaction to it. Hope and
optimism are important parts of changing your thinking and yourself.
It isn't just the occurrence of bad happenings that obsess us, it can
also be the loss of highly desired situations. Examples: "I hate getting
old and wrinkled," "I'm very unhappy being single and alone," "I hate
identify your "awfulizing" or unreasonable expectations that are
making you frustrated and unhappy.
Myss (1997), who is not a psychologist, suggests there are five
major false beliefs, misconceptions, or myths that cause people to be
unable or unmotivated to heal their wounds:
First myth: My life has to be organized around my wound
experiences. Consequences--My bad experiences have completely
changed my life. My wounds define my life. Every one of my life
problems is interpreted and explained in light of my wounds.
Therefore, I need to be with people who understand me and my bad
experiences. As a result, most of my human contacts are with people
who are especially understanding of my wounds.
Since dwelling on the history of wounds can be disabling and
seriously hamper one's hopes of recovery, one should ask him/herself:
Does this first myth dominate my life? Do people show a lot more
understanding and become nicer to me when I share my problems or