Living in the present will eliminate many of your relationship or life anxieties.
So much of our suffering comes from not living in the present. When we are not living in the present, we are not “experiencing” life as precious. Anxiety has to do with anticipating a future moment that turns out unlike the way we would like and then resisting that future experience in our minds and bodies. We are basically fighting against a future moment that has not taken place.
I remember working with a past client who had a terminal condition called pulmonary thrombosis. She was nearing the last part of her illness knowing that she will eventually die from not being able to breathe. That would be a scary thought for anyone and her high anxiety made sense. However, here it was on a weekday afternoon, she had her sister by her side, her husband and even the caring hospice worker. And, of course, there was me doing a home visit- her therapist who also cared a great deal for her. She looked at me and told me how scared she was about when and how she will die. I told her that I understood totally and listened some more about her fear and anxiety. Then I said, “Look around your bedroom and see the eight loving eyes looking at you and sending you love. Are you experiencing that love?” She said, “No, I am feeling my terror about dying.” I then asked her to focus and pay attention to the loving energy she was receiving and just allow the love to come into her body and give the anxiety a rest for a few moments. She did that and a soft smile came on her face and she said she was feeling it (the love). She had a peaceful expression on her face.
I told her that we are all going to die some day and that even though it appears that her death was probably closer than any of ours. That like us, she should treat her life moments as precious and use the idea of the finiteness of her life as motivation to feel more love than she ever allowed herself to feel. I asked her to practice staying in the present. She did. She felt fear of course; however, there were more moments of living in the present and when she took those breaks from worry and anxiety she enjoyed her life.
Enjoying her life did not make death come any quicker. Who knows if it may have delayed death to some degree. She had more of those pleasurable moments as time went on despite being closer to her death. If she could do that under her circumstances, we all can learn to live more in the present, even if some things in our future may not go our way.
Learning to Live in Your Relationship’s Present
In the realm of relationships, living in the present is also a crucial habit to develop. Anyone in a long-term relationship has experienced being hurt by something the partner did (or didn’t do) or said (or didn’t say). We need to deal with our feelings about the past that we are still experiencing. That is a necessary communication habit to have.
However, discussing our current feelings about the past is different than “living in the past.” Living in the past is a commitment to being stuck- locking in our negative perceptions of our partner or ourselves. Living in the present allows for new positive patterns to emerge. Living in the present allows us to have a fresh start and to reach our relationship potential. Forgiveness, for example, allows oneself to live in the present rather than the past. It frees up the “forgiver” so that more life energy can be used in the here and now rather than be expended on past experiences, habits and perceptions.
Also, living in the present allows for more healthy risk-taking in all areas of life including in one’s relationship. Living in the present allows one to “go out on a limb” and share a vulnerable part of oneself with a partner. It allows a person to do something new and exciting with a partner, plan a different kind of date, try a different sexual approach or behavior, etc. This would be quite different from the partner who is playing it safe because he doesn’t want to make a mistake, displease his partner or be rejected.
Living in the present allows us to have more spring in our step, to take more initiative and to be more alive. I play better softball when I am practicing living in the present. I go after balls more aggressively, enjoying the process, rather than holding back in case I make an error. It is far more fun to play with reckless abandon than to try to avoid failure. Whether it is relationships, play, work or life in general, it is far more fulfilling to live in the present. Living in the present alleviates anxiety and opens us up to being more “present” in our lives and with each other.
How do you live in the present in life, love or work? Share your advice in a comment below or on the Todd Creager Center for Successful Relationships Facebook Page!
Todd Creager is a Relationship Therapist in Orange County, CA , author of The Long Hot Marriage, and husband to a beautiful wife for 26 years. Visit his website at www.toddcreager.com to find out more on how you can improve your life and the life of your most important relationships.