An important aspect of my doctoral research is our relationship with the future. Currently, this seems a very important topic given the current challenges with our economy and unemployment. St. Augustine said in his Confessions, that he could not speak of past, present, and future, because the past and future do not actually exist. The past is a memory and the future is expectation. However, he did say, he could speak of the presence of things past, the presence of the things present, and the presence of things future.
Eric Tolle, in his wonderful book The Power of Now, which I recommend to anyone who has not read it, agrees with Augustine, and encourages us to end the delusion of time by ending our preoccupation with the past and future. The key to Tolle’s teaching, I believe, is to end the preoccupation with, but not consideration of, the past and future. According to Tolle, ending this preoccupation helps us only relive stress and anxiety but also to gain deep spiritual insight.
Philip Zimbardo and John Boyd in their book, The Time Paradox, recommend we develop a balanced approach to time. They suggest we reframe our past so that our memories are pleasant and enjoyable, or if that is not possible, so they provide us with wisdom and insight. Furthermore, they encourage us to enjoy and appreciate the present, and to develop an optimistic attitude towards our future. I agree with Augustine, Tolle, and Zimbardo and Boyd, but I cannot help to notice how the relationship, that is, the images and narratives we hold for the future, influences present motivation and behavior.
Fred Pollack in his seminal work, The Image of the Future, noted there are four types of relationships with the future. First, there is what he referred to as “essence-optimism”; there is something inherent about reality, that in the end everything will be okay. An example would be the idea that culture is evolving towards something better. Next, he talked about essence-pessimism; there is something inherent about reality, that in the end, everything is doomed. An example of this would be the idea that the universe is fated to suffer a cold death or will ultimately contract into another big bang. Then, he pointed out influence-pessimism. This is the belief that no matter what actions we take, we will make things worse. Finally, he spoke of influence-optimism, the empowering belief that our actions can influence the future for the better.
The most negative image of the future is a combination of essence-pessimism and influence-pessimism; chaos rules the cosmos from beginning to end and anything I do will make things worse. The most powerful stance, however, is essence-pessimism and influence-optimism; yes, reality may be precarious, however, it is possible to imagine a better future and it is even possible for me to work towards that future. “Yes things may be bad, but I can do something about them.” A pessimistic image of the future is not necessarily bad as long as we believe we can positively influence it through the actions we take today.
When we lose faith in our ability to create a positive future, we become prone to anxiety and depression. In moderate doses, anxiety and depression are also not bad; in fact, they may motivate us because we may take positive action to eliminate then. Unfortunately, when they overwhelm us we run the risk of becoming helpless and we may find ourselves focused on the immediate and forego goal setting and planning. If we find ourselves in this situation, what do we do to get back on our feet?
It is vitally important for us to regain the feeling of influence over our futures and the belief that our actions, choices, and behaviors will have a positive impact. Hypnosis and self-hypnosis can quickly facilitate a shift in our attitudes towards the future and help us recover our confidence and sense of control over our lives. If you would like to learn how hypnosis and self-hypnosis could help you regain control over your future, call (805) 637-4263 or email me.
“The future must not only be perceived, it must also be shaped.”
– Fred Polak