I previously recommended viewing an excellent talk by American therapist Michael Yapko. It’s at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TVgQ_tgWMyU
Dr Yapko speaks of his experience in treating patients who have “every right to be depressed” – people who have been tortured, lost their whole family to terrorism, survived horrific natural disasters, been brutalised by war or many other horrendous traumas. For Dr Yapko, the most interesting question is: how come some of these patients manage to recover pretty well?
The patients themselves, when asked, offer few clues – “luck of the draw”, “good genes”, “I don’t know”, etc - but Dr Yapko eventually identified some important factors, a major one being “future orientation”: people who can “face forward” and ask themselves “how do I want my life to be?” recover better than those who “keep focussing on the past – the unchangeable past.” Now this is something I can really identify with: for far too long during depressive periods I’ve gone over and over events from my distant part, often back to schooldays, rueing decisions I made and imagining what my life would be like – inevitably better - if I’d made different decisions.
Well, if I’d have made different decisions- taking a different job rather than the one I took in my early 30s, not dumped a lovely girlfriend in my 20s, done different “A” level subjects, gone to a different university, not moved way from a city I loved for a better job, or whatever – my life would have been different. But not necessarily better; I simply don’t know how things would have panned out. And did this endless rumination actually help? Categorically no. It wasted time and often sent me into deeper depression.
I’ve done a few things to help me get out of the habit of fixating on my past. I shredded a big folder of personal letters I received in my teens and 20s, including some from ex-girlfriends; I closed down my LinkedIn account (no more reminders of past work disappointments or reading posts about the brilliant things the writer is (supposedly) doing; stopped seeing some old friends whose conversation continually dragged me back to times I want to move on from; and I decline or ignore invitations for work reunions to places I have very mixed memories of.
If you want to move on from past lives, what would you think of doing? I’m really interested to know.
As for mapping out a better future, that will have to wait for another post. But if you stop ruminating about the past, you’ll have more time to focus on the future. That’s a good start.
“Oldie but Goldie”
A Moodscope member.