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Gerald Young, Ph.D.
Gerald Young Ph.D.

Past, Presence, Future

Your Time is Now

What did Doctor Young mean? "Past, Presence, Future?" I think he said that it means that I should live more in the present and worry less about the future. Also, I should not have so many regrets about the past. My friend is worse than me, because she is worrying all the time. We are both frozen about the future and have to learn to see the future as a possibility to work toward, and to try to define the best future for us.

Nothing is guaranteed, in following a questionable path toward the future, the paths most probably were not our own to begin with. Sometimes paths chosen by others for us are wickedly harmful. With Dr. Young, we explored why I have let others do this for me - choose what is best for me and where I should be going in my life. Ok, a lot of it related to my parents, and some to my teachers, with some more to my friends. But they are also struggling with their future and with choosing the ideal path that leads to personal fulfillment. Somehow, I have to see the big picture. Dr. Young told me to try to see all the influences on me. It will not be easy, but both my friend and myself are committed to change. I guess that is half the battle, to want work on the self and to work with the other.

You need to balance being inward and watching others on their path, while being outward and on a path of your choosing, but one followed with sensitivity for self and for other people as you move forward on it.

You need to find the middle ground, or better yet, a different ground, where you see at once together the past, the present, and the future. To do this, you have to learn from the past, no matter how hard it has been for you, and you have to behave with presence in the present, or with sensitivity toward the self and other, no matter how difficult that will be.

It is easy to say that your parents, or other people or events, caused this or that about you, but that is only part of the truth. You have a say in who influences you as a person and when you can influence yourself. Your voice can be ring truer than the voice of any other person or party about how you should be, how you should see the past, and how you should create your future.

It helps when you tell yourself that your past hurts but feeling the hurt is the start of helping yourself. Also, sometimes sharing the hurt with someone in the present helps it transform to hope, and speaking of dreams with someone might help them become more realistic and doable. Finally, it helps when you think clearly about problems in the present, see the options that might work as solutions, and choose from among the options the best one.

Future is about planning and acting on our plans, and planning is about seeing our choices and even creating better ones. By dealing with the past, the future becomes easier to see, and by living in the present, it will have a better future.

People get caught up in the moment instead of living the moment in the sense of being a fully knowing and feeling self who is open to possibility and sharing. Too often, we ask only what is in it for us instead of asking also what can we put in it from ourselves. By living a life of give and take, you will end up receiving fulfillment more than you could have imagined. In behaving this way, the future becomes easier because the present is more fulfilling.

Aside from sharing with others and thinking correctly about the self and others, self help begins with techniques that help. For example, learn how to calm the body and mind with behavioral breathing techniques. There is no mystery to it, and some explanations of it even in psychology are too complex. I explain it simply enough so that even children can start using it right away. Isn't it possible that you can learn to concentrate on the breathing passage from the nostril to the bottom of the lungs so that you are distracted from your stress and succeed in calming down? When stress returns to center stage, return to concentrate on the breathing. Add in visualizations of a pleasant scene of nature and pleasant music, if you can, to enhance the relaxation experience. By doing this, you can begin to better live the present with presence, see the past with openness, and move toward a better future. From behavior to thinking to sharing with others, you have the ability to help yourself and to chart in the best possible way your understanding of the past, life in the present, and pathways toward the future.

About the Author
Gerald Young, Ph.D.

Gerald Young, Ph.D., is a professor of psychology at York University.

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