Here is my blog on time tripping and its contribution to chronic pain.
We tend to reference the past and try to predict our future. It’s a habit, and no wonder. Our ancestors survived for ages by using our memories of past experiences to help us act in the present moment and plan for the future. Of course, we need this ability, but taken to an extreme, it can be a hindrance and help hold us in the cycle of chronic pain. We can end up spending do much time in the past or the future that we miss the power the present moment brings to us. When we do this, we end up standing directly in the way of our ability to heal.
Let me give you an example. This is something I caught myself doing early in my recovery.
I woke up in the middle of the night with a tight band of intense sensation in the back of my neck. The first thing I remember was hearing myself say, “I had this pain before.” Notice I did two things there automatically, reflexively. The only consciousness I brought into this moment was the awareness of my thoughts. First, I labelled the sensation I was feeling “pain” and recoiled against it. Next, I time tripped into the past to compare what I was experiencing to a previous time.
So – I took the sensation I woke up with, which was in my nervous system as a new experience, and made meaning right away. I was feeling “pain”, which is “bad”, and then referenced the past. By doing these two things, I had further impressed what I was feeling twice as much into my nervous system as where it began.
I noticed that my next thought was, “I will have to go see my doctor to get him to help me with this.”
So – I time shifted into the future. I had now impressed my experience three times deeper into my nervous system … and a fourth time when I disempowered myself from my body’s ability to self-correct and heal.
Because I had been doing the work of mindfulness, I was able to watch my thoughts. I saw what my ‘default’ was: to time trip into past experience and plan for the future. But in my angst, I made my situation worse because I bypassed the present moment, where the healing happens. I ceded my power to the past and future, and in doing so, I made the sensation I was feeling much more intense, thereby making the body work all that much harder to heal. I had been living everywhere except in the present.
In this case, I noticed my thought pattern and interrupted it as soon as I began planning how soon I could see my doctor. I am not saying that doctors can’t help us. Of course they can. But we can also help ourselves – by not panicking, by staying present and allowing the body’s wisdom to come forth. In all my time tripping, I had blocked this natural healing energy. Once I noticed what I had done, I consciously focused my thoughts to the sensation I was feeling in the present. I slowed and deepened my breathing. I sent a prayer of help up to my Higher Power. As I stayed quiet in the now, my attention on the breath, I felt the tightness in my neck soften and dissolve.
What a powerful lesson I learned. I was graced with a moment of clarity as I saw my thought patterns. I made a conscious adjustment opened myself to the present moment, such a powerful ally in healing.
We are feeling creatures. In any given moment, we will feel either comfort or discomfort. The meaning we make has a direct effect on our experience. We have a present moment experience and then fret about how it seems like something traumatic from the past, and then worry about how it will resolve in the future. This habit is one that may serve us on a survival level, but it can lead to unnecessary suffering and block our body’s ability to resolve a current issue efficiently.