You’re watching an all-engrossing scene in a great movie whilst desperately needing to run to the loo – but resisting the pain and hanging on until the scene is over. Why is it so hard to break ourselves away in the moment? One way to answer this – although admittedly a bit abstract – is to say that the past conditions the present. In the past – if we left the room to pee we’d miss the action scene, and with it the emotional high we were seeking. But today – we have technology – we could easily pick up the remote and press pause – so you could say we are acting on an out-of-date program. (Granted my analogy may be limited here – we often still can’t bring ourselves to do it because it would kill the moment – but my point remains!)
Hundreds of similar scenes play out in our lives on a regular basis – it’s fun to think of a movie example, but not so fun to think of other situations where our emotions are high – like during an argument or during a stressful period of self-doubt – and we just can’t bring ourselves to press pause in the moment. Another abstract way to describe our reluctance to do this Is simply that most of us have trouble allowing ourselves to be present in the moment. This idea has become a cliché by now but is no less true.
Most of our individual problems could be solved if we were to crack this nut and train ourselves to become present in the moment. The secret I believe is to train ourselves to do this when we are not caught up in something emotional – like an interpersonal conflict, a movie scene, or a state of chronic internal stress due to something happening or not happening in our lives – infertility being a good example of this.
Whatever way we have conditioned ourselves over time to solve our problems, is more than likely the way we will try to solve all our problems – unless we break out of that conditioning. You could be trying to solve a problem now by worrying about it – because that’s what you’ve always done – if so you have a choice here.
We can’t change the past that conditioned us, but we can acknowledge that our past actions – and more importantly our reactions – create within our brains unhelpful patterns that condition us in the present and make it far more likely we will react the same way over and over, in essence becoming trapped by our own programming.
There’s a sense in society that we need years of therapy to overcome this kind of stuff, but we don’t. If we let ourselves acknowledge the truth of the situation, i.e., that we are reacting based on conditioned patterns, that our persona in these situations is the result of repeatedly playing out these patterns for years, then the solution is relatively simple – we just need to interrupt those patterns a few times and lay in new ones in order to break the hold they have over us.
It’s the simple biology of brain patterns that are created by repeated firing and wiring!
The fact that we might FEEL strongly about the thing we are reacting to is what makes this job difficult. Strong feelings on a subject give us a sense of validity and righteousness – regardless of whether it really warrants them or not. Most of us have strong feelings on food – which is why it is hard to stop eating certain foods or drinking certain drinks! I could have easily picked politics or the Coronavirus!
One tool that is freely available to us all that would instantly solve many of our problems is the act of steadying our mind for a moment and – to use another clichéd phrase – becoming present. In other words – allowing ourselves to come out of the movie scene in our heads and pick up the remote and press pause.
I think there are two reasons most of us don’t choose to do this:
- It’s free therefore we don’t value it
- We are afraid to do it in case we change.
Gift yourself the present of learning to be present – it’s free, and it’s easy!