If I was ever to get a phrase or motto tattooed onto my body, this one would be it:
Don’t make the story more important than the moment
In so many ways, we are constantly (and I mean constantly) making the story in our heads more important than the moment we are in. We do this in a multitude of ways; by dragging forward experiences from the past, pre-empting possibilities in the future and dissociating from the present.
Let’s think about what’s happening from the level of the nervous system in all of these instances…
- Dragging forward a story from the past
This in and of itself is a sympathetic pattern. If I am constantly thinking about a certain situation, experiencing a long lasting mood, or feel stuck in a groundhog day-esque loop, then it’s useful to understand that I’m operating from a sympathetic mindspace.
In parasympathetic, we are responding to the reality of the moment in front of us, and as those moments are always changing, my experience is constantly changing also. What expresses through me then exists in relationship with that.
In sympathetic, I am taking the story in my head and overlaying it onto my present day reality. I might have an idea about how things are going to play out, and expectation of what’s going to occur, or be replaying a scene from the past in my mind’s eye- all of which have their own thought patterns.
As soon as I activate that thought, the corresponding motor pattern in my body fires up also; and now mentally, emotionally and physiologically, I am 100% in the past.
The story doesn’t just exist in the moment, it becomes the moment; at least as far as is true for our physical and mental experience.
- Pre-empting possibilities for the future
Much of what we seek out is not about assisting us in taking action, but in controlling our reaction. When we seek to control our reaction, we are again, dissociating from our experience.
Asking yourself- Am I looking to support action or to control my reaction?- is illuminating. We have so many rules around what is appropriate and not appropriate, what will be socially supported and what won’t be that we again dissociate from the reality of our experience and prevent ourselves taking any action at all.
If controlling outcomes becomes the norm, we can find ourselves with some fairly ingrained patterns of flight and freeze that can get difficult to see beyond.
- Dissociating from the present
All of what we’ve talked about already are examples of dissociation. Some other common patterns include:
- Asking endless questions of yourself
- Asking endless questions of others
- Rigid planning
- Overthinking and under-doing
It’s a big conversation but just to get the ball rolling…
Don’t make the story more important than the moment.