Do you know somebody who was really hurt about something, and then they continue to want to talk about it and recap it? Maybe they were cheated on, or fired unfairly, or was born with a nose they don’t love. Everyone is allowed to feel upset for anything, that is your right as a human being. For awhile they are perfectly ok to recap and vent, that’s part of being human. And if it’s someone we love, we want to be with them, to comfort them, and help them feel better.
The problem comes when they continue to recap the same thing over and over, sometimes for months or years. It is having a very negative effect on us to hear the recapping, and it’s not serving them either. Their answer to “how was your day” is “I would be great except Jimmy didn’t ask me to the dance in 1993.” As loved ones we don’t want to not listen because they are clearly hurt, we don’t want to diminish what they’re going through, and we want them to feel better.
My challenge for you today is instead to try saying something this. “I’m always here when you need to talk, but it hurts me when you continue to recap the past like this. How can I help you move forward today?” Make it clear that they are hurting you when they bring this stuff up, because they are. It’s also giving a gentle reminder that they aren’t helping themselves by continuing to recap the same event from the past. And it’s making things very clear that you are there to help and you love them.
If they still need help getting complete over a past event, that’s what therapy is for, but it’s not the job of friends and loved ones. Help your loved ones move forward, don’t help them relive the past.