Physician, heal thyself...get out of your past and get into your present

Several years ago I found myself employed as a mental health counselor. Invariably, upon meeting a client for the first time, he or she would tell me their story. They would tell me a story of all that had taken in their lives leading them up to now. In was as though each client came to me with their own personal box of stuff that in their minds defined who they were. The ritual seldom changed. Each one would rummage about in their mental "box" pulling out item after item in an attempt to show themselves to me. It was my practice to allow them to go through this procedure as I listened attentively. When I felt somewhat satisfied that they had reviewed the most important stuff from their individual boxes, I would interject my plan for taping up the box of stuff and putting it in the closet or basement or in some cases, have us prepare for a yard sale.
"Well", I would say, "you have before you a great opportunity. This opportunity is there for all of us but we fail to see it. There's all this stuff and stuff and this stuff, and that's okay, but what do we do now? We have all this stuff in our box and can hardly fit anything new. All our energy is focused on our past. This happened and then that happened. It's all taking up too much room in our mental little boxes. Not that we're trying to diminish or deny the good or ugly events that have happened in our lives, but if we want health and happiness we need to try a new approach."
It was usually at this point that I would try to have those who were able or at least willing, to stand and shake off the cob webs. "Take a deep breath and shake your hands and body like we're shaking off dust or cob webs from off your bodies."
It was always a great focal point.
"Now let's say it together. Okay. Now what?- what do I do now?"
Our focus on the past distorts the present or denies it's reality altogether - and ultimately the future becomes our present - and we find ourselves having never progressed beyond the continuous stories that we tell ourselves from out of our tiny little box.
..."When I was in High School this guy...my father used to beat me...my company fired me, my wife left me, my house burned down, my husband killed himself".......
"Okay. Now what? - what do I do now?"
If we truly want to grow beyond the pain that these stories tell us, we need to get out of the past and get into our present. As an exercise, I would ask that every time my client was to realize that he/she found themselves sleepily listening to the stories calling from their box, they were to shake off the cob webs and ask themselves, "Okay. Now what? -what do I do now?" We worked through the answers together. And often quite successfully I might add. And I add that this takes heart. It takes a willingness to take responsibility. To confront a victim mentality where everything happens to you. The day begins not in the box but with you saying, "Now what?" It's a little question, but with practice it creates empowerment. It takes you out of your head and into your heart.
...And it is here that I find myself. So I stand to dust off the cob webs. I breathe into my being.
"Now what?"

Comments

baroness radon said…
I have a friend who used to carry with her, maybe still does, a journal of some things that had happened maybe 5 or 10 years before, and whenever she was in a difficult place, she would bring it out and revisit the misery all over again. She couldn't put it down. I once told her she would be better, she would know she was "over it" when she stopped carrying that notebook around. Boy, did she get pissed.

As far as I can tell, she's still not over it, is heavily medicated and has made no progress.
Tao1776 said…
Trying to empty my box or at least put it away for those rare occasions when I might need it is tough work. Things have changed so much. Sometimes we go back to the box for comfort when we should really be moving on.