It is true that you can’t move forward looking backwards. Being trapped in the past and replaying negative mental movies day after day are sure ways to remain in pain, mentally, physically and psychologically. Unfortunately, this is the normal way of life for most people who suffer from chronic pain.
What does it actually mean to move forward? Forward motion is the ability to advance towards your objectives. Most people have goals and if you do not, then it is certainly time to set some and go about working towards these objectives. They will give you purpose and direction during your lifetime. Of course you should want to move forward, since remaining stagnant is getting left behind. Forward motion is needed just to maintain your presence in the now, since everything around you is in constant flux and experiencing perpetual change. You should be also… If not, you are trying to hold on to a now that no longer exists, except to haunt your thoughts, dreams and body with a myriad of suffering.
Being trapped and feeling stuck are common descriptions of life with chronic pain. People find that they can use the pain as a crutch and make a very sad story out of it for themselves. They identify with the pain and it becomes part of them. They reinforce this association regularly by living out past events in their mind over and over again. Of course, these past experiences guide the reactions of the present and future, so how they affect us becomes very influential in how our lives will progress.
The mind can use the past in many ways. It can find comfort there, remembering the “good times” when life was so much better than it is now. It can also be visited by the ghosts of the past, in terms of regret, sadness, fear, insecurity and anger. In most pained people, both of these strategies are used by the mind to create a disconnect from the experience of life now. A combination of “remembering when” and “reliving past torments” will ensure a future filed with anxiety and no time at all to focus on right now. Of course, in order to end chronic pain, this negative cycle must be dismantled and destroyed.
How many times each day do you find yourself being dragged along by the current of your thoughts back to the past where something wonderful or terrible is happening to you? Are you actively engaging these thoughts or simply being kidnapped into the past against your will? Yes, of course. The answers are all obvious. When you are not presently engaged, your mind goes on autopilot and forces you into the past where it holds your attention until you literally run smack into a brick wall, spiritually-speaking at least. That brick wall is the now, which wakes you up and provides the opportunity to break free from past pain, even if the past seems so much better than now.
You must take control of your idle mind and prevent it from bringing you back in time. It really does not matter if the memories are great or terrifying. They are not your reality now. You need to be here in the present moment in order to formulate action towards ending your suffering. After all, your suffering exists now, not in an imagined future or a memory of the past.
Take your mind’s eye and put it on yourself right now. Be here and be comfortable with being here. In essence, be present. Use your senses to keep you engaged now. Act for the sake of action, rather than result and keep your planning confined to the next logical action as you slowly move forward. As you gain momentum, do not take your eyes off the present and very next step and allow them to drift far ahead of you into an imaginary (and often anxiety-filled) future. Stay here and only acknowledge the next step as you complete the one you are on right now.
This simple lesson is greatly enhanced though the use of many of the tools used in coaching. Meditation, introspective thought and journaling, guided imagery, goal setting and many other coaching practices utilize the philosophy of conscious movement in a forward direction, with an emphasis on presence. If you can cultivate these practices to work for you, there is nothing that you can not achieve, even if your pain never goes away. However, I am quite sure that if you can get this far, pain will literally be just another memory that no longer consumes the resources of your consciousness.