Everyone Has an UNPAST

Every time you start a conversation with someone, they're asking you to listen to them.

A therapist not only listens carefully to what a person says but also pays close attention to communication that may be surfacing from a person's UNPAST. 

What's UNPAST?

The UNPAST is a blend of unresolved conflicts and emotions that occurred in the past but still influence how a person feels, thinks and behaves in day to day living.

Here are some examples. 

The next time you have a conversation with someone, ask yourself the following questions:

1) Do the emotions this person is expressing seem excessive or over the top?

2) Is the person talking about a sensitive matter but showing little or no emotion?

3) Do they seem overly critical, harsh, aloof or uncaring with you or to themselves?

4) While listening to them, do you feel like if you say the wrong thing they'll lash out at you? 

Or

5) Do they seem open, expressive, approachable and reasonable, given their circumstance?

If the answer is yes to any of the first four questions, chances are the person you're listening to is strongly being influenced by their UNPAST. 

If the answer to question five is yes, then it's likely that the person speaking is present enough and able to separate the past from the present, which is an essential ingredient to working through ANY challenge.  

Learning to spot the UNPAST when it surfaces, or even just keeping the concept in mind, can help you become a better and more compassionate listener. 

When a person's UNPAST does surface, it's often a signal that they're needing you to be kind, patient and gentle with them.    

The better you become at responding to these signals, the more people will feel safe and comfortable with you, and in the world. 

Special Thank you to Dr. Dominique Scarafone for coining the term "UNPAST".   

​Photo credit: gareth1953 Cataract Creating Chaos via Visual Hunt / CC BY


Posted in How to Think Like a Therapist    Tagged with Therapy Process, Self-relfection, Contacting a counsellor, Counsellor


4 Comments

Perry - August 17th, 2016 at 4:50 PM
Thank you for sharing, I will also use this when listening to my self when speaking both out-loud alone or with people and when thinking or speaking with myself, 5 aha's.
Joseph Eliezer - August 17th, 2016 at 9:51 PM
I appreciate your message, Perry. You're absolutely right!
The information about the UNPAST applies to everyone. I love the way you identified the need to listen to the self - too. Thanks again for your message. :)
Rosemary Fromson - August 31st, 2016 at 3:36 PM
2) being dissociative is a common coping strategy for victims of trauma; the ability to remove themselves emotionally from their story keeps them safe. This is a process that takes skill, empathy, patience, and guidance to help victims become victorious by learning to feel their story and then being able to cope with alternative methods.
Joseph Eliezer - September 1st, 2016 at 9:13 PM
I like how you connected the idea of UNPAST with trauma and disassociation, Rosemary. Indeed, for the traumatized person, the UNPAST largely consists of what hasn't been, but needs to be expressed. Thanks for your comment.
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