"People are asking about the good old days. I say, why don’t you say the good now days?”
-Robert M. Young
We could say the four letter word we are dealing with right now is “heat”. We have already forgotten how much we couldn’t wait for our cold winter to be over. We might even have a little anxiety of another cold winter coming. But right now, we are in the heat of the summer. It is time to go out early in the morning, and to walk later at night. It is time to ride our bikes and go out for ice cream if we are so inclined. The fear of winter is far from our minds right now. How quickly we forget what we want to. On the other hand, how quickly that four letter word, “fear”, creeps up on us when something triggers it and it is tied to the past.
We are living in the present now, as fully as we are able. Yet, something happens and we immediately get transported to an earlier time and place. We don’t seem to be able to help it. What we can help is to pay attention to when this happens and to then develop the words and images and feelings to work our way through this old fear so that we can be here and now and deal effectively with what is happening.
The other day I was speaking with a patient I have worked with over the years. He was explaining to me how well he has been doing, but recently an old pattern began to take shape again, and he felt a bit lost as to how to deal with it. In effect, when he gets stressed or anxious, a body part begins to spasm and become reactive and inflamed. Many years ago this happened so completely that it affected everything in his life. As the pattern has repeated over the years, each time a body part becomes inflamed, it lasts for a shorter period and with less intensity. This pattern began with his knees, and also can affect his neck and shoulders, his legs, and his feet.
A cool thing happens when we can work with ourselves and see old patterns, where they come from, who they belong to, and the dynamics behind them. Suddenly instead of becoming anxious and filled with fear, we have the tools to deal with our fear and it no longer has to rule us. So recently, his inner leg became reactive and painful. He started to become anxious again and to remember all the bad things that happened in the past when this pattern would occur. This of course fueled his fear and the cycle was under way.
He phoned me, and we spoke for a bit. He wrote me, and I wrote him. These reminders helped him to remember the tools that work for him. I basically told him that the last time his leg acted up it wasn’t nearly as bad as the other times in his life. Each time the disruption to his life was a bit less. He was able to deal with it better. Also, to let his family know that he is beginning to experience another episode and that if he doesn’t make a big (fear) deal about it, they won’t either. Let them in without obsessing so they can also be resources to help you. This could be asking for their help to do some physical things when you need them until this heals and passes. Let them know this happens to you periodically, and it too will pass. Put light on it and treat it more lightly with acceptance from you instead of fear from you.
With these words, and with the previous work we did together, he was on his way. He knew exactly what to do. Fear keeps us locked in the past. Shedding light on our fear helps us to move out and live and be fully in the present. The other piece here is that when we are in fear, we often segment it and us from others; we take ourselves away from help. Instead, it is important to open ourselves to help and to let air and light in to the dark places. We then allow all that is into our lives and can enjoy where we are now, and live full and whole and vital lives.
Small Changes and Promote Big Results:
Think of something that keeps you stuck in the past. This could be fear, and it could be something else. Ask yourself if this is a repeating pattern, or not. If it is repeating, see what is there for you to learn from. Why does it need to keep repeating? Instead of reacting, out of fear or some other emotion, keep still. Pay attention to what thoughts come to you as you are being as still as possible. Instead of talking and acting out, just be with the thoughts and feelings that come up. As a friend of mine says, dig up some rocks and look at the roots. Give the feeling some light and air….. the root becomes seen. Share the root with someone you trust.
Take a few moments and write out what came to you. Remind yourself that you are here in the present, and not in that past situation.