Why Can’t I Stop Thinking About The Past?

Lincoln Park Therapy Group is honored to have Erin Carpenter, LCSW and Founder of Thrive Counseling as a guest author.

“Why can’t I stop thinking about my past?”

I get this question a lot. Someone will come into my office, plop down on the comfy couch and say “I can’t stop thinking about the past. It’s so upsetting. Why can’t I get over this?

Often things that have happened in the past don’t stay there. They stick with us, popping into our minds when we least expect it. And it just won’t leave. Sometimes things that happened in our past seem to start bothering us years (or even decades) after the event.

Usually the past that barges into the present are in the form of memories of events that were intense and hurtful. Like a breakup, an assault, an accident, an illness or abuse. The event is over, but our memories of that event remain and begin to bother us.

This is very upsetting and, at the very least, annoying. The reason is that these past hurts need to be processed. Processing can take different forms, but the most common way to process our past consists of:

  • Talking about what happened
  • Identifying how it felt at the time
  • Identifying how it affected you, both at the time it happened and how it continues to touch your life
  • Gaining a new perspective on the event from the vantage point of where you are now

Usually this happens in therapy. I work with my clients every day to process the past so that they can live in the present. I understand how uncomfortable it can be to be visited by memories of hurt, abuse, or loss. But it’s visiting because it requires your attention. The past wants to stay in the past, but it may need a little work before it can truly rest and you can move forward.

Try not to be frustrated with yourself if you can’t stop thinking about the past. It’s a normal and healthy thing that your brain does in order to get your attention. It is saying “hey, this thing needs to integrated into your life now. Now it’s over but I haven’t processed it yet.”

So listen to yourself. If you can’t stop thinking about your past, reach out to a therapist and begin the journey of moving past your past.


If you’re in the Chicago area and interested in therapy services, you can learn more about starting here. Or if you’re ready to get started, reach out to us and schedule an appointment.


Erin Carpenter, LCSW is the Founder of Thrive Counseling. She loves therapy and is passionate about helping people. A published author and public speaker, Erin specializes in Trauma work, Eating Disorders, and Anxiety. Erin loves to snowboard, spend time with her family, and bike to work in the summertime.