Move over, Dr Who…we are all time travellers of one tense or another: counselling sessions resonate with reflections on the past dramas and delights that have shaped our clients’ lives. Therapy can be part archaeology – sifting through old experiences to explore and help explain present discomfort and dis-ease. Utilising an emotional trowel can be helpful. Understanding how old wounds affect you can liberate you to move on. Coaching, on the other hand, can be part clairvoyance and futurology, encouraging a client to set goals and to dream. Depressed people are often stuck in the Daleks of their past; anxiety is all about fretting for the future.
Not a day passes without our thoughts heading off into times past or those yet to come. A sound, smell, taste or random comment may evoke some old precious or pernicious memory, or set the mind racing ahead to a future in which best hopes or worst fears will be realised. The same event can set couples time travelling along different tracks, creating unsought dissonance between them: a father-to-be glows at the prospect of meeting his son, soon to be delivered. His heavily pregnant wife however, is full of dark, repetitive what-ifs: suppose the surgeon’s knife slips, or the battery of ante-natal tests has failed to pick up some problem with their child. She rehearses the worst while he looks excitedly forward. Both sets of feelings are entirely understandable and authentic, but at this highly-charged time juncture, neither partner can reason the other out of their future-oriented position. Perhaps the couple can best stay connected by acknowledging what the other is feeling right now – and accepting their difference.
Think to happier times
Some people can turn time travel to their own great benefit, soothing tough times by checking back into a stand-out moment or particular phase of their lives that was full of joy. This is a trick, an exercise of the imagination, if you like, whereby you can call up the past as if it was happening now – a sunrise moment, a ring slipped on your finger, a child’s first step, the smell of spring rain. For others, memory can only ever be a fragment or whiff of nostalgia. The French novelist Marcel Proust certainly understood what you might call the full ‘madeleine’ moment – his madeleine being a little, French, scalloped sponge cakes. One taste of the favourite childhood gateau of his childhood reawakens in his fictional hero an ‘exquisite pleasure’ – total sensual recall of his safe, happy childhood in his vanished village home.
Living life in the present
Although every one of us has a nomadic mental Tardis, we can learn to park it, so reducing stress and suffering. You can discover that there is no time like the present through Mindfulness. This is the increasingly popular practice of breathing and relaxation, letting your thoughts drift while paying attention to what you can hear, see and feel around you and on your body, until your mind is still. This idea does not contradict reflection and goal-setting – it simply puts them in a healthier context. Mindfulness is pretty much synonymous with awareness, with being in the here and now, so that whether you are peeling potatoes or walking to work, you are fully present rather than mentally leaping two tasks ahead, or rewinding yesterday. In The Power of Now, spiritual author Eckhart Tolle argues that being totally present stops you hankering for external success and find peace in the moment. ‘Say “yes” to life’- he writes ‘and see how life suddenly starts working for you rather than against you.’ Surely no Doctor could find fault with that.
How is your time radar ? Do you live life in the moment or do you think predominantly in a past or future orientated way ? Please do get in touch with krysallis if you would like some help in ‘re-focusing the here and now’ and maximising the present moment.