You may have heard that the present moment is the only one that matters. Much of our anxiety and unhappiness comes in dwelling on either the past or the future.
While that may be true, it’s not so easy to simply stop looking forward or backward. Many of us who grew up with unmet childhood needs struggle with an onslaught of emotional flashbacks on a daily basis.Many of us who grew up with unmet childhood needs struggle with an onslaught of emotional flashbacks. Click To Tweet
This symptom of complex PTSD takes us over and covers us in a blanket of shame. More than a memory of a past event, it’s a debilitating takeover of our minds and bodies that makes feeling good seem impossible.
But there is evidence that mindfulness practice can help with these flashbacks. Grounding ourselves in the present moment on a regular basis can rewire our brains to work for us rather than against us.
Present moment practice
I’ve begun a daily meditation practice which started with ten minutes and now lasts an hour. For me, meditation means sitting and letting my thoughts go by, rather than making my mind a blank slate.
Observing my thoughts in the moment has brought a peace I’ve never known. In the months since I’ve started the practice, my emotional flashbacks have lessened and I feel less stressed about my future.
Often, after my one hour meditation practice I will find new money in my account. Since starting mindfulness practice, I have let go of clamoring to earn money and allow that money to come in instead.
I have learned that hard work doesn’t necessarily pay off. Letting go often reaps greater rewards and more quickly.
I have also learned that worry about the future has felt like “home” to me. It was a coping mechanism I picked up as a child whose needs weren’t met.
In order to feel safe, I had to control my outcomes. Assuming the worst helped me avoid disappointment and being blindsided by calamity.
Self-sabotage as self-protection
That’s one example of self-sabotage as self-protection. Even though it feels bad, worry and anxiety over the future is our inner child’s way of keeping us safe from uncertainty.Worry and anxiety over the future is our inner child's way of keeping us safe from uncertainty. Click To Tweet
Only recently, I’ve begun to challenge my natural inclination to expect the worst. I say to myself (out loud sometimes) “but what if it goes well?” or “what if it turns out exactly the way I want?”
Believe it or not, these words have an impact on how I feel about the future. Entertaining the possibility that things might go well instead of badly, feels good! And it’s just as likely as a negative outcome, if not more so.
Another mindfulness practice that keeps me in the present moment is breathwork. During these one-hour sessions, all my anxious thoughts dissipate and I get answers and solutions to my life’s questions and problems.
Science tells us that our minds are plastic, meaning they can change with some work. Daily meditation practice, and challenging old thought patterns can help us feel differently than we’ve always felt.
It takes some discipline to sit still for ten minutes or an hour. It also takes time that you might feel guilty giving to yourself. If you’ve been trained to believe that “doing” makes you acceptable, sitting still may not be easy.
But you are worth the time it takes to heal your brain and rewire it to work in your favor. If you can avoid distractions to focus your energy on the present moment, you will reap rewards that may surprise you.