A woman looking at the floor with many clocks drawn behind her
Coping Skills

Living in the Present Step Two – Don’t Live in the Past

So we talked about how not to live in the future, but for a lot of people, that’s the easier part. Now I’ll talk about how not to live in the past. As always, I take the Peer Support approach, and I’ll share my experience and how I learned from it.

I’m ashamed, so very ashamed!

Just like every human who ever lived, I’ve done things I’m ashamed of. From embarrassing myself at my best friend’s wedding in front of everyone, all the way to awkwardly hugging a woman who would have preferred to shake my hand. Both of those things can cause me to drop what I’m doing, inhale sharply and then fail to finish breathing for a second or two. Sometimes my mind wants to fixate on these times. I find a good strategy for this is to re-think. My first think is of shame and my perceived inferiority. Then I redo it. My “re-think” is that I’m a human who has kind of awkward stories to tell to friends and either laugh about or cringe together. Once the panic is over, I can just remind myself of what I’m doing. I paused a couple of times when thinking of my friend’s wedding, but right now, I’m writing a blog post. I focus on that. I’m not in an awkward situation. I’m sitting in a library, typing away, and waiting for a friend that I study with to drop by. As true as it is that those were hard situations, I’m not there. I’m now. Now is OK. In fact, now is great. Now, I’m sharing these stories and maybe helping someone else realize they’re not alone in this.

The pain is so deep!

I’ve been badly hurt by things in my past. Without going into detail, I was once badly abused by a friend. Actually more than once, and by more than one friend. To be honest, some abuse goes very very deep, but the internet is not a place for such details. Suffice to say I carry pain. After deciding not to talk to one of these people, I thought on the abuse every single day. Probably more like every single hour. I also found myself filled with anger, and sometimes even hatred. With that sort of anger and pain bringing me to the past, I found the best solution was to overcome that hate with love. Many religions preach that it is necessary to forgive those who’ve hurt you no matter what they did. Whatever the religious benefit, I know for sure that there’s an emotional benefit. Forgiving an abuser allows the abuse to stay in the past. Really, that’s what forgiveness is. It’s not saying what they did was OK. It’s saying you won’t hold on to it and hurt them in your thoughts. I don’t hate this person any more and because of that, I don’t think about them nearly as much.

It’s not working!

These are decent strategies in general, but especially when huge events in the past are recent, sometimes it takes more than what I wrote here to handle it. I recommend applying every coping skill in one’s toolbox of skills. I’ve written prolifically on coping skills, and I’m not the only one. I particularly suggest “Grounding” as a method of staying in the present when the past is too raw to put down. The idea is to just hyperfocus on what’s going on around you. Pay attention to every sense. With your inner voice speak to yourself about everything you sense.

I am sitting in a library. I hear the typing of keys, and feel the keys on my fingertips. There is a gentle chatter, but people are being fairly quiet. I smell books and new furniture. There is a slight pain in my forearms because this table is a bit tall for me to conveniently use a laptop with. There is tension in my neck.

Writing the first few paragraphs was pretty hard. Those were hard times to revisit and write about. I’m glad I did because maybe it will help others, but writing that stuff about what I’m doing right now was amazing. The pain that was beginning to come to me about my past melted away. I feel more at peace now, and others have told me they also feel more peace when they apply these things. I only really started using grounding a lot in the last month or so. I knew about it, but it wasn’t a frequently used skill. I’m glad to be learning how to use it better.

Image by pixel2013 from Pixabay

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