Friday, 7 February 2014

Treat the Past as a passing Visitor, not a Permanent House Guest

When the past comes knocking, I have some choices to make. I can ignore the knock on the door, or I can open the door and face it, or I can open the door, invite the past in and ask it to live with me. Each response will have its own consequences good and bad.

Too often I have lived with the past as a permanent house guest. It has lived in my mind with memories and waking dreams that keep the pain of past traumas alive. In a way, I helped it feel at home in my head, by engaging it in conversation, I thought I would be able to 'understand' my past and find reasons why and why not. Instead, it became comfortable and made itself at home. So much so, that I missed a lot of my present, simply because looking after my 'house guest' left me emotionally exhausted and unable to engage with the here and now.

As I have worked through the Dialectical Behaviour Therapy programme, the importance of the Core Mindfulness Module has become central to my letting go of the past and its hold on my life. It doesn't mean, that suddenly I don't have to deal with flashbacks or disturbing dreams, but it does mean that I don't have to let the memories and emotions from the past spoil my present.

When I get the inevitable knock at the door and I know it's the past lurking outside, I open the door, I acknowledge that the familiar visitor is there again. No longer, do I have to invite the past in, to make itself comfortable in my head. 'You shall not pass'! Having acknowledged that it's visited again, I close the door on it and return to my life as it is - in the present.

Here is a simple explanation of the What and How skills of basic Mindfulness:

Learning to keep your mind in the moment….

Stop Your Mind Racing… (WHAT skills you use…)


* Just NOTICE the experience – Don’t react, don’t analyse
* Have a TEFLON MIND – let thoughts, feelings and experiences just pass through your mind – don’t focus on them or hold on to them, let them SLIP AWAY
* Keep your FOCUS – don’t get distracted by thoughts or sounds or sights that take your attention away from what you are doing right now.
* Be ALERT and aware of every thought, feeling and action that come to your mind.
* WATCH your thoughts coming and going. Notice each feeling – as they come and go like waves. Notice exactly what you are doing.
* Use your SENSES – when your focus slips use one of them to bring you back to the here and now – ‘Stop and Smell the Roses’'Wake up and smell the Coffee!'.


o When you notice something – Put WORDS to the EXPERIENCE eg in your mind say ‘I’m feeling sad’…. Or ‘my stomach muscles are tightening’… or ‘I’m thinking I can’t do this…or ‘I’m walking one step at a time…’
o PUT YOUR EXPERIENCE INTO WORDS – as if you were commentating on what is going on. Don’t analyse or criticise.


o COMPLETELY LOSE YOURSELF IN THE MOMENT – get involved in the here and now. For example, Don't just listen to the music, really enjoy it and when the urge comes over you, dance - madly, badly and with your whole body committed to the experience.
o GO WITH THE FLOW – dance to the music, sing along, whatever is needed in the here and now.
o Actively PRACTICE your new skills
(see previous post:

‘Taking every thought captive….’ (HOW you use your skills….)

• See but DON’T EVALUATE. Stick to the facts. Don’t think about ‘good’ and ‘bad’, or ‘should’ or ‘shouldn’t’
• ACCEPT each moment as it is
• ACKNOWLEDGE both the helpful/wholesome around you and also acknowledge what is negative/harmful.

• DO ONE THING AT A TIME – When you are eating: eat. When you are walking: walk.
• LET GO OF DISTRACTIONS – if your thoughts or feelings distract you from what you are doing, let them go and go back to what you were doing – and keep doing it again and again.
• CONCENTRATE YOUR MIND – don’t multi-task, if you find you are trying to do two things at once, stop and go back focus on doing one thing at a time.

• FOCUS ON WHAT WORKS – do what needs to be done in each situation.
• PLAY BY THE RULES – don’t cut your nose off to spite your face.
• BE AS SKILLFUL AS YOU CAN – in the situation you are actually in.
• BE AWARE OF WHAT YOUR OBJECTIVE IS – do what is necessary to achieve them

Tell the past where to go and remember:

The Past is History
The Future is a Mystery
Right now is a gift, which is why it's called the Present.

Featured post

Measuring Progress in Recovery

I'm at a strange stage in my recovery. It's not a 'crossroads', I'm not in 'limbo', I'm not even 'stagna...