Is the Future Making us Unhappier?Posted: April 4, 2011
My brain is constantly “nexting”. I’m constantly thinking about the next thing. It’s breakfast and I’m thinking about dinner, it’s Monday and I’m thinking about the weekend, it’s April and I’m thinking about August, and so on.
We’re constantly obsessing about the future because this gives us some sense of control. If I think it, it exists. If I obsess over it I make it happen. I create my own future, nothing is left to chance. Is it any wonder then, that we often find it hard to feel grateful about what we have? If all we’re thinking about is “what’s next”, how can we possibly focus on “what’s now”?
I am completely incapable of celebrating small successes and am chronically dissatisfied with my achievements because what is achieved is already done. Check. Moving on. My brain is “nexting”. This is a problem I recon. I mean, this helps me move fast, adjust, adopt. Change is my friend. No. Change is my drug; the thrill of the unknown is my addiction. I see the opposite in many of my clients. Many don’t particularly like change, they complain about their situation and although their brains may be nexting, their psyche is standing still, knee deep in a weed-infested, moldering emotional swamp. But when it comes to what makes us unhappy nexting is as dangerous as stagnation. I know all about how to pull people out of their swamp cheering them on from the shore. But I have no clue how to slow someone down from the frenzied race of nexting against oneself, time and nothingness.
So this has become my little project. And it goes beyond finding gratitude. I’m going to make a habit of comparing my today to yesterday. And celebrate how much better today is without competing with a non-existent tomorrow. I’m going to be feasting on the past. Honoring all sorts of anniversaries. Of small and big accomplishments. Of sadness and joy, death and rebirth, failure and success, fortune and hardship. I can’t stop my brain from doing what it does best but against all modern psychotherapy advice, the past is where I live. And maybe it will lead me to a happier today.
This is going to be a challenge.