Each year, as the summer winds down, I usually find myself saying, “Boy the summer sure went by fast!” If you have kids, this feels especially true. But, no matter what, when the temperature cools down and we get a little less sun each day, we have to say goodbye to what just was and welcome what’s to come. A change of seasons and change, in general, can draw up past disappointments and natural fears.
This presents a potential double-sided coin, where past experiences and future concerns, can dominate what’s going on now. Most of us have caught ourselves lamenting on all that didn’t go well or obsessing about every potential problem that lies ahead. The past is done and the future hasn’t happened, but often either can become the central place of our thinking. “Summer wasn’t what I hoped it would be, the winter will be even worse!”
Using the seasons as a metaphor helps to illustrate the challenges of change and the thoughts and emotions that come with it. How we can allow for the past and future in the moment, without it robbing the now? A starting ground lies in learning to challenge our thoughts and to feel our feelings, which we’ll look at a little more.
In the present moment, it’s natural for us to reference past experiences and project them into the future of what may come. A lot of times this helps us to be prepared and safe. But when it becomes our dominating now, we cannot be free to enjoy what is good, now.
When the past is forefront, we can get bogged down by past failures, past hurts, laments, regrets and our emotions will follow. Depression, sadness, sorrow, fears, low worth, feeling frozen or not wanting to do anything because, “It will be just like it was last year.”
The past of what just was, can be filled with wonderful times, as well as disappointments. In the present moment, it’s important to acknowledge those past distressful experiences and to remind ourselves that they do not need to dictate what is going on now. “It’s not what I hoped it would be, but I’m ok now.”
The future, on the other hand, can be wrought with our projections of worst-case scenarios. It can become bigger, louder and scarier. Our concerns, worries, fears, and potential hurts may become the only thing we can think about. The more my thoughts are living in the future, the more anxious I will feel.
But how do we move through change in ways that help us continue to grow? How do we embrace and engage the change and the emotions that come with it?
It begins by paying closer attention to our thought life. It is necessary to challenge and test our thoughts to truth and facts. The ultimate aim is to develop more balanced thoughts that will more accurately guide and steer our emotions.
The experiences we have shaped our beliefs about ourselves and lead us in our thoughts. Our feelings will align with our thought life. We can temper those “past” or “future” thoughts when we catch them and test to the truth and balance them out. “While it’s true this summer was disappointing, it’s also true that I’ve had bad summers before and the next season was great.”
Every new season brings with it a mix of emotions. Am I feeling sad that it was not what I hoped? Am I feeling scared of what’s next?
It is important to begin to practice allowing ourselves to validate and feel emotions as they occur. A wonderful Christian Pastor and author Lisa Bevere says, “When an emotion is suppressed because it is not validated it will eventually be expressed inappropriately.” Sadly, most adults find themselves having to relearn what they are even feeling and how to feel at all. Many of us were taught as children; at home, at school, by our society or culture, that our feelings were not important or were too much for the people around us, so we quickly learn to suppress or deny our feelings and our needs. This erodes our worth and value. It can even extinguish our voice or develop within us a belief that our needs don’t matter. If my needs don’t matter, then I don’t matter.
However, at any point in our lives we can learn to navigate emotions, rather than be led by them. God gave us the gift of feelings to aid us as instruction to what we are needing, ie. “I am disappointed, I need reassurance.” “I am sad I need comfort.”
When we allow ourselves to experience our feelings, in the present moment, we can develop familiarity and better orient ourselves in navigating the current circumstances and get our needs met. It’s ok to let our sadness out, but we don’t have to stay there. Being more acquainted with our feelings, and what needs they are alerting us to, helps us to know that they will not destroy or overwhelm us.
We can better orient ourselves in the midst of change by validating past disappoints and acknowledging future worries. Challenging thoughts and balancing them out with truth, can greatly decrease the intensity of the emotions that follow. However, we must allow ourselves to feel. It can be scary at first, but once we are more familiar we can more readily move through them rather than be led by them. Ultimately, this helps us develop greater confidence and optimism of what’s to come, not be chained to the past and be freer to engage and enjoy in the present.
*An additional thought for those of us who are parents:
We have a great opportunity to instill in our children a familiarity with their feelings and the needs that are present. We don’t have to have it all figured before we teach them. We can model it for them as we ourselves learn and are vulnerable. We can cultivate within our children confidence in understanding their feelings simply by engaging them where they are, encourage and validate what they are feeling and help them understand what they are needing. In turn, this reinforces self-worth, as well as, the ability to move through change with much less degree of distress or confusion.
**Attached is a great video blog from a Christian leader of young men with additional wisdom and insight, on the validation of emotions, as he shares teaching moment he had with his son on the way to school: https://www.facebook.com/105653972896879/posts/2255450997917155/