How Much Time Do You Spend Thinking About Stuff That Happened In the Past?
Writing about this idea immediately hurls me into the past...my past.
The idea came to me as I caught myself thinking about my life.
“Oh, yeah. Here I am, again, thinking about stuff that happened. I am back in my past. Dwelling on events from in the not-now.”
As I continued to consider this habit (for that was my self-diagnosis), I began to wonder how much of my mental activity was bound up in the not-now and the not-future.
I started to make a rough guess about how much of my thinking was about shit that had already happened.
It seemed to me that the majority of my thought-time was captured by my enthrallment of my past.
The quality of feeling attached to my memories seemed to me to be mostly in the style of anguish and sorrow about what I had done, what had been done to me, and so on.
I lived in a sewer of grievance: grievance against myself, grievance aimed at other people.
The other components that slopped over the banks of my river of the past included a healthy helping of shame.
Thanks to the insight provided by something called psychology, we have two distinctly different types of thinking about the past.
ONE: Introspection (the good kind of contemplating your past).
TWO: Rumination (yikes! Not the good kind).
If you are a regular visitor to The God Consciousness Project, you know that there are some practical actions you can take in the present moment to hijack your mind and reset the direction your thinking is heading.
These are simple methods that are devoid of the need for some (or any) belief in God.
Dr. Robert Firestone refers to the rumination process as letting your inner-critic take over your mind. He calls this inner-critic the “anti-self”.
By now, you can get the feeling that the payoff for indulging in rumination thoughts is not super wonderful.
Here are some of the usual outcomes for you when you keep on keeping on picking at the scabs of your thoughts about the past:
Digging deeper into your distressed feelings
Impair ability to think and process emotions
Increase feelings of isolation
Push people away from you
Make you more angry
Generate suicidal thoughts
Lead to suicide
The intrusion of unwanted thoughts creates a fertile mental state to stay stuck in the bad shit you've done in your life, and the bad shit you think has been done to you by other people, places and things.
This fosters a negative mood, and this self-reinforcing loop shoots you back into the cycle of going over and over the stuff that is in your past or that you think is in your past that you feel bad about.
It is a vicious cycle.
To turn this around and take full advantage of your ability to literally change your mind is one way you can redirect the considerable power of your thinking (and feeling).
I am glad you asked.
When you become aware that you are lost in thinking about the past and your state of mind is getting more and more negative, this is a cue to disrupt the cycle.
The act of becoming aware of your own thinking and to consciously acknowledge that you are in the ocean of shitty thinking (and feelings) is a most excellent start to the process of consciously disrupting your own vicious cycle.
In that moment, you consciously pause your thinking. The disruption begins with noticing the fact you are lost in the past.
“Oh, here I am, again.”
“Oh, hmmm. I can choose my next thought.”
And you let yourself watch what comes next into your mind.
If it is more of the same crappenzee, then you can again say to yourself, “Oh. Let's reboot.”
The truth is that the more you disrupt your tendency to be seduced by the negative aspects of your past, the more you can build a realistic relationship with your past.
Which brings you and me to the idea of introspection about the past.
This is the process of discovering the useful information locked in your version of what happened to you in your past.
Introspection equals getting prompts from yourself about what you can do differently to avoid the suffering that is yet to come.
It also includes coming to terms with what you can't change.
QUITE AN IMPORTANT NOTE:
Okay, all that stuff you just read may sound super great fantastic, like you can take control of your own mind and change your mind's thinking.
But, there is blow-back from the parts of your self that have their own agenda.
Yeah, your mind can hijack you and take you back inside the horror of deep-rumination.
Deep-rumination is the unpleasant experience of when your mind is captured by the shitty past stuff that you have been absorbed into. And when you try disrupting this stream of thought, all that happens is your get sucked deeper inside.
Each thought you touch with your mind is like a tar-baby.
It gloms onto you, loading you down, and only seems to attract more of the same toxic waste contained inside your compartment of the past.
Oh, sure, this is all based on your version of past events. Keep in mind (if you can!) that if we share an experience, there will be my version of what happened, your version of what happened, and what really happened.
But that won't matter very much to your habit of dwelling on the past. Your habit digs a mental rut that is difficult to get out of. Your habit starts to take on a life of it's own.
How do I know any of this stuff?
Because, I suffer from this affliction and it sucks chunks.
Oh sure, I can do all the things outlined in this lesson. But in the long, dark march of the night, I can become a victim of myself.
What to do?
Well, if you are into beseeching God to help you out of a self-created jam, I suggest you invoke your deity and ask for help.
I can recommend this book to get you started:
Another action you can take is to get some help from somebody who is qualified to help you.
Yes, a mental health professional who is not going to bleep with your mind.
There are some good ones out there.
Yes, they probably want you to pay them for their time and expertise.
I know, I know: the nerve of them! How dare they want to be paid! Don't they just do it for FREE and not a FEE?
Anyway, my final word on all this is that a lot of what is locked into your suffering over your past and predilection to ruminate over your past is something called SHAME.
More about shame later.