Past, present, and future walk into a bar. Suddenly everyone becomes very tense.
End of joke, in case you didn’t get it.
Really, it’s no laughing matter if you allow past, present, and future to walk into the barroom of your mind to argue, get drunk, and start a fight. You’ll become, needless to say, very tense.
Figuratively speaking, that big brawl erupts in our psyche when we’re preoccupied with painful memories from our past, or when we’re misusing the present to wallow in negative impressions, or when we’re anxiously envisioning a future laden with adversity.
We need to keep in mind, of course, that past and future are experienced by us only in the present moment. Writing 1,600 years ago in his Confessions, St. Augustine said, “There are three tenses or times: the present of past things, the present of present things, and the present of future things.” Because of inner conflict, however, many of us have a tendency to zoom around in an emotionally induced virtual reality of past and future, usually without any awareness of the detrimental effects of doing so.
The negative considerations and speculations that inner conflict dishes out compel us to chase after misery wherever we can find it. Many of us unwittingly jump into the past or the future—as we construe these “time zones” in our emotional imagination—whenever we get a chance to cozy up to some old hurt, negative emotion, or unresolved inner fear. [Read more…]