Changing the future

Photo by le vy via Pexels

Ideas about time travel appear in all sorts of sci fi stories I enjoy*.  I recently saw a showerthought** posted online by a user named kai1998 on Reddit.  It said, “When people think about travelling to the past, they worry about accidentally changing the present, but no one in the present really thinks they can radically change the future.

This idea really struck me, and I’ve been thinking about it ever since.  Of course, in sci fi, our protagonists are in the past and trying to avoid their present being changed for the worse.  For example, Star Trek: First Contact and The Simpsons: Treehouse of Horror V “Time and Punishment”.  It is a given in time travel stories that even the smallest change made in the past will have a devastating effect on the future.  But if you asked someone what small thing they could do today to have a massive impact some years down the line, I expect most people would deny having such power.

The difference, of course, is that we don’t know what the future will look like.  So we don’t know what impact our actions will actually have.  You might feel powerless to make any changes, that your life is being controlled by factors outside you.  Or it might seem frightening to think of having such an impact on the world.  Anxiety might cause you to do nothing at all, for fear of doing something “wrong” or ending up with a bad result.

Perhaps you think it’s too late to make changes, that your life has been set.  You might have lost hope that things can change for the better.

So there are all sorts of reasons you might avoid making changes.  Ask yourself, what exactly is holding you back?  What can you do about that?  Is it a real block that you cannot get past, or fear based on what you fear people might do or say?  What would you do if you need not be afraid of failing?  What would you choose to do, if it were all up to you and no-one else?

Imagine yourself from 10 years in the future, coming to visit the Present You.  What advice might they give you?  What might their life look like, and are you happy at the thought?  How might you improve it?

Or even ask Future You from one week in the future what they think about a decision you are trying to make right now.  Are they likely to be happy or unhappy you have made certain choices?

The future is unwritten.  Pick up a pen!

 

*  Just don’t ask me to explain the paradoxes in the Terminator series.  I’m not sure anyone can work all those out.

**A showerthought is a casual realisation when you are doing something that doesn’t require your full attention (such as showering), yet seems like a revelation.

Resignation or acceptance?

resignation or acceptance
Image courtesy of digitalart at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

You might shy away from the idea of “acceptance” when it comes to your thoughts, feelings or situation.  Perhaps you are mixing up acceptance with resignation.  There are big differences between the two.  Making an active choice of one over the other for yourself can give you your power back!  Let me explain…

Some people might say that resignation and acceptance are the same thing, meaning defeat, powerlessness, or giving up on any hope of change.  That might be what resignation is, but it’s not what is meant by acceptance in a therapeutic context.

Think of being lost, and needing a map to find your destination.  What is the first thing you do?  Find out exactly where you are already!  You wouldn’t be able to move on with your journey if you didn’t know your starting point, and acceptance is like that. Acceptance is the big “you are here” arrow we need to orient ourselves.

Acceptance can be really hard at first.  It is easy to get caught up in ruminating.  You might fall into a cycle of thinking “this shouldn’t be happening!” or “things should be different!” – sound familiar?  That is the opposite of acceptance, because you are fighting hard against what is happening in the here and now.  This fighting against yourself uses up a lot of energy, causes stress and breeds dissatisfaction.

How would it be if you stopped?  Perhaps you fear that stopping this cycle of thoughts will mean giving up hope of any change?  No!  I have good news for you – acceptance is change, in and of itself!  Acceptance is the first step to making things different and growing.

Carl Rogers, in his book On Becoming A Person: A Therapist’s View of Psychotherapy, said “We cannot change, we cannot move away from what we are, until we thoroughly accept what we are. Then change seems to come about almost unnoticed.”  He also said, “It becomes easier for me to accept myself as a decidedly imperfect person, who by no means functions at all times in the way in which I would like to function. This must seem to some like a very strange direction in which to move. It seems to me to have value because the curious paradox is that when I accept myself as I am, then I change.”

Carl Jung put it more succinctly, when he said, “What we resist, persists.”

Acceptance is about treating yourself kindly.  Much as a child won’t learn if you shout at them, or a plant won’t grow if you restrict its water, you won’t grow while you are fighting yourself and your circumstances.  You can turn that energy to other uses.  Greet your painful feelings with kindness and acceptance.  You might be surprised as they lessen in intensity and duration.  Listen to what your feelings are telling you.  Examine your thoughts with compassion, as you would those of your best friend.  If you wouldn’t insult your best friend for their situation and tell them it must be different, why do it to yourself?  Let yourself grow.

If you find this difficult, or overwhelming, take a step back.  Don’t push beyond your limits of safety.  If you would like to work through and move on from these issues in a safe and supportive environment, please contact me to book an appointment.