Have you ever anticipated something wonderful?
Such as your birthday or a date with your true love. Wasn’t it a great feeling? And have you ever experienced times when the anticipation of an event was the best part of the experience? Have you ever ended up being disappointed with the experience, which felt so much better in your imagination?
Have you ever worried about something? Have you ever dreaded something in your future? Such as your lover leaving you or you making a fool out of yourself? How often your fears never realized or when they did, it wasn’t as bad as you imagined it?
The truth is, our brain doesn’t have a crystal ball and cannot see into the future. At any moment, there are multiple possibilities of what is going to happen in the next moment.
Even the smallest decisions can redirect your life toward an entirely different future.
What your brain does, can be best described as an educated guess. Yes, it is based on your previous experience, your beliefs, perceptions and habitual responses. However, the feeling you feel, when you think about any future event doesn’t mean it is going to happen exactly as you imagined it.
You can see your brain as a super computer, which in the blink of an eye accesses your memories, evaluates the consequences of your actions and runs the data through the filter of your beliefs. Then it presents to you the most likely scenario with a feeling attached.
A feeling is a messenger. It will either drive your actions or block them.
Some feelings set up the mood for pleasurable activities and other activate your habitual defense response. In many cases it is very useful. For example, anticipating having fun at a party primes you for the experience of having fun and as a result you are more likely to have fun. Feeling excited about a passionate kiss makes the kiss even more enjoyable.
Even bad feelings can be very useful.
Imagining all the possible implications of driving under the influence of alcohol may be enough to convince you to stay home or call a taxi. Imagining the pain of loneliness may prompt you to say “I am sorry” and make all necessary amends to save the relationship. Fear of pain keeps you from holding your hand over a fire and fear of falling keeps you from jumping of a cliff.
Unfortunately, painful feelings from the past projected into the future can limit you and prevent from experiencing life in all its vibrancy. If you always anticipate a heartbreak, you may be hesitant to engage in a new relationship. If you cannot bear failure, because in the past you experience an intense feeling of shame, you will be afraid to try something new. More importantly, pain and tension from anticipating future disasters, disappointments and dangers, can make your present experience very painful.
When you anticipate pain, you are not preventing pain in the future, you just bring pain from the past into your present.
You may say, “But, Anna, didn’t you say that feelings are information? Isn’t it important to listen to our feelings?” Yes, it is true. However, sometimes this information is outdated. In many cases, the pain comes from a memory of a small child, who didn’t have knowledge or resources to deal with the situation. You changed since then. You are not that child anymore. But your inner guardian has never received the memo and keeps creating pain to keep you from being hurt.
Let’s imagine that on September 19th, 1996, at 10:30 am a small child spills a glass of milk, creating a huge mess. It is a small incident. However, not this time, because: 1) a few hours before that, her mother lost her job, 2) then, an hour before that, the mom and dad had a big fight 3) a minute before that, the mother felt that her life is falling apart and she has no control. Now, a spilled milk is more than just a spilled milk. It is the last straw and she reacts. She screams not just at the child, she screams at the whole unfairness of life. She cries. She slaps the child. She shouts, “Why you always create a mess?” “Why you are so clumsy?”can you see how the whole experience can be terrifying to a small human being, who has no idea what is going on?
Now to the inner super computer the spilled milk experience looks like this:
Spilled milk –> mess –> loud sound -> harsh words -> pain, fear
Notice that in the original scenario, pain and fear happened AFTER a child spilled the milk. This is a normal sequence. However, if the mind wants to prevent a child from creating a mess in the future, it has to reverse the order and place the bad feeling BEFORE the experience.
But, wait, what if next time that child spills orange juice? What if there is no juice and the child just drops something valuable?
Now, the super computer makes the adjustments to make sure the child is safe from future pain.
Something that maybe spilled or broken -> pain and fear.
But what if the child keeps getting into trouble for breaking things and creating a mess? The super-computer may have to create a more general program:
Risk of failure -> intense pain and fear.
Because the programs run automatically, it is easy to feel that we have no control. It just happens.
Our unconscious programs create a web of habitual responses. Since responses are automatic, it feels as if “it just happens”, “I have no control”.
It is very difficult to make changes in our habitual or “normal” state of consciousness. However, we can create an altered state – a special state of consciousness, in which the mind can revisit old learning and create a new response. This is called hypnosis.
Hypnosis is a form of communication, which leads our mind/body system into a space between the groves, between the beaten tracks, into the uncharted territory of new possibilities.
In hypnosis we can teach our mind to view childhood experiences from two different positions. One – when we step into the past experience and see it through our eyes, hear all sounds with our ears and feel the feelings in our body. Even though the memory is from the past, the body feels the feelings in the present. This gives the memory more power. Second – we can look at the event as if it were happening to somebody else – being an observer. For example, we may put the memory on a movie screen or imagine ourselves floating above it, or look at it through a thick glass, feeling completely safe and having all adult knowledge and resources.
In hypnosis we can help the younger version of ourselves experience the same situation with new knowledge and gain a different perspective. This allows us to upload new data into our super computer, so when we look into the future, your mind can find a better and more up-to-date response.
Most importantly, we can release the past pain, so it no longer leaks into our present. The more we release the past pain and past negative and unpleasant emotions, the more comfort and pleasure we can have in our present.
If you could release past pain while keeping all positive learning, what feelings would you rather have when you look into your future?
Don’t get me wrong. It is not positive thinking. I do believe that, as human beings, we came to this planet to experience the full range of emotions. I do believe it is good to have a feeling that stops you from doing something stupid and dangerous. But I do not believe there is any good reason to keep experience old pain, when there is so much joy to have in the present. I do not believe there is any good reason to respond to current events with emotions of a frightened child. And I do believe that the more we release old pain, the more risks we can take, the more adventures and new exciting relationships we can attract and the more fun and freedom we can have as we continue our journey on this planet.