Sunday, September 04, 2011

HSPs, Staying Present and Letting Go of the Past

How good are you at "Staying Present?"

I realize that "Staying Present" and "Being in THIS Moment" are currently popular buzzwords in the metaphysics, New Age and personal development fields, and I'll be the first to admit that I spent a fair amount of time considering what exactly "they" (You know, the "experts") mean, by that.

Then I considered some of the core aspects of being a Highly Sensitive Person.

We "Process Deeply."
We "Have Rich Inner Lives."
We "Pause and Reflect."
We "Spend Time Alone."
We "Experience Pain Deeply."

"Staying Present" may actually be particularly important for the Highly Sensitive Person. Why? Whereas we probably try to frame the above attributes in a positive light, truth is that they can also be a tempting "invitation" to become moody and broody. Because of the deep way we experience life and its events, there's a very fine line between merely honoring our natural sensitivities and depth... and sliding into either a dark and depressing hole, or a place of anxiety, or BOTH.

If you dwell excessively on things that happened in the past-- perhaps internally "playing a loop" of something negative that once took place, over and over... it becomes very easy to withdraw into yourself even grow depressed. Likewise, if you obsess too much over things that might happen in the future, perhaps endlessly "playing out" possible scenarios and outcomes-- from good to bad-- you can easily work yourself into a great state of anxiety. Either way, you increase the likelihood that you’ll miss everything going on around you, right NOW!

One of my favorite quotes (which was even my email signature line for several years)-- by Helen Keller-- goes like this: “When one door of happiness closes, another opens, but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one that has been opened for us.

For years, I used it as a daily reminder to not get stuck in a place of endelessly (and needlessly) examining the "what ifs" of my life-- both past and future.

Frequently, we get fixated on the way things can be, should be, or will be someday... or could have been, should have been or might have been, somewhere in the past. But life always happens in the present. No amount of dwelling and brooding will change the past. And the future? It is always in motion, and depends almost wholly on what you choose to do right now... in the PRESENT.

I'm by no means advocating that we ignore the events of the past, nor ignore planning for the future. It's healthy-- and even wise-- to look at the past and understand, in a general sort of way, why certain things unfolded the way they did. That's simple wisdom. But once the basic understanding is there, LET IT GO! You cannot change the past, by living in it. Similarly, it's good to have a plan, and a sense of where we want to go, or be, somewhere down the road. But once that plan is in place, LET GO of the worry about the outcome. No matter how well you plan, "something" unexpected will inevitably happen; living in the future will not control its outcome. So why worry?

The opportunity to enjoy our lives exists right now.

So on this Labor Day Weekend, make time to enjoy your life, in this present moment. Take your dog for a walk. Play with your kids, or grandkids. Paint. Write a story. Sing in the shower. Go for a drive in the country. Go to a movie. Prepare a wonderful meal. Organize your sock drawer (yes, I really DID just say that!). Hug someone you love.

 Life is beautiful... but you have to be here and present to enjoy it! Happy Labor Day!

Talk Back: Are you good at "Staying Present?" Or do you have a natural tendency to dwell on the past? Or worry about the future? Have you found effective ways to not slip into a place of brooding and worrying? Please leave a comment!


  1. I tend to think of the decision to let go of processing as similar to deciding when a painting is finished. One moment i think it's finished & then I think of something else I can do to it... It can seem never ending at times, but eventually the final decision gets made:)
    The real tough one for me I think has been acceptance of those things, situations or people that no matter how many times I run them through the system they simply aren't going to make any sense. Intellectually I know I have to accept that & let go instead of trying endlessly, but sometimes that system of mine just seems to have a life of it's own & keeps running it through anyway.
    Good article Peter, I like your list of fun things to do:)

  2. My brain always brings me past angry moments and my mistakes . I don't like to go outside. I am always in past or future this makes me always afraid. Fear is my enemy.


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