The mind is a time machine – Chapter Five

The mind is a time machine – Chapter Five

Image 1There is no time but NOW!

If we were in possession of a time machine, we wouldn’t go back to the worst past we could think of or forward to the most frightening future, but isn’t that just what we continually do with the mind? We think back to the past with regret, disappointment and guilt. Then we think of the future with a want for approval, control or security – all the time seeing life in a fearful way. Looking at the past this way makes us depressed and looking at the future this way makes us anxious. We are not living in the present. And yet the present is the only time we really have. All else is just an imagination or a memory and can we really trust our memories?

I called into the town of my birth while on a business trip to Europe and was reminiscing with an old friend, Ron. I recalled an old memory from our childhood and remembered when this happened and that happened and who was there. Ron looked at me and said they happened at three different times and his recollection of who was there also differed to mine. I went over it again but our memories differed over the events of the past. Ron suggested we ask another friend, Michael, for his version to clear it up. Michael’s version was closer to Ron’s than mine. It was three separate events but his version was also slightly different. Three people with different memories of the same events left me feeling a little disturbed. My memory seemed worse than theirs. I always thought I had a good memory but that was now brought into question. I couldn’t trust my own memory. I concluded on the long flight back to Australia that I would reminisce about these events half a world away. I would pull up these memories and pack them away again to a point where they eventually blurred into the same memory. Later I looked into false memory syndrome that had recently been pushed into the headlines. Children had been asked if they had been sexually abused and had it described to them until they developed a false memory of being abused. The imagination became a false memory. Although most abuse is real and not imagined, there are cases where the memory has been false. I began to realise that the subconscious can’t tell the difference between a real or imagined experience. Portions of my own past have been coloured by my imagination and can’t be trusted.

Image 1Depression often has its roots in the distorted past.

What is the point of continually going over negative memories with regret, disappointment and guilt when our version of the event might be an amplified distortion far worse than the event itself? If it was bad enough the first time, why continue to relive it over and over again in this time machine of the mind? The past can only serve to offer lessons and should be left behind so we can live in the ‘now’. Depression often has its roots in the distorted past. There are some people in the world with full recall of all the days in their lives from around ten to fourteen years of age, but these are rare exceptions. The rest of us might have perfect memories locked away in our subconscious but the recall can be tainted, coloured, or even imagined.

Our imagination is our creative faculty. It’s a tool, but do we usually use it as a tool? We can use this tool to imagine what we would like to bring into our life and then come back to this moment and do the things we need to do now to bring it to fruition. If you look around at all the man-made things in your surroundings, you will see how someone’s imagination was at work as a creative faculty. All the things you see were at one time only in someone’s imagination. We often use this imagination to worry about the future, thinking of the worst things that could happen. We kick in the want for approval, control and security and see the world as a fearful place, and most of the things people worry about never happen. What a waste of this wonderful creative ability!

What to do with this information? Understand your thought system is not you. It is a tool that we use to create. Learn to harness its potential to create a happier life and not let it run around like a bull in a china shop. Thoughts just bubble up in the mind but you don’t have to listen to them. Turn your wants into expectations and dismiss or ignore the negative thoughts.

Anxiety has its roots in the imagined future – stuck in the wants for approval, control and security. Depression will often have its roots in the past with regret disappointment and guilt.