How the Future Feeds on the Present

And maybe what I can do about it!

Predictions of past hurts can predict future hurts. When I fear a future of pain, I am robbed of my present focus. When I’m attending to a possible pain-filled future, that future is feeding on my present. Fear can’t feed on present experience, only on what doesn’t presently exist. My attention on fear increases the likelihood of my need to validate that fear.

Because I need to be right, I’ll tend to confirm my fear predictions through confirmation bias – increasing my trust in those predictions. This makes my future more likely to be fulfilled in fear.

We humans are notoriously poor predictors of our futures, yet, we do it with confidence. We trust that we know how things will go and how we’ll feel in the future because our trust in past predictions resulted in our present situation. When facing my present, I tend to fall on the past as if it were the present

What About Attention?

I have precious little attention to spread around. Of all that I could be aware, I am actually aware of a tiny fraction. 100% of my attention is aware of the tiniest subset of 100% of all that is. My predictions, based on this tiny subset, must be less than 100% accurate because I’m always short some data. I make most of my predictions on almost no data at all – based almost entirely on my trust in my senses, other people’s senses, and my education, all of which is data-short.

Due to my need to be right, I’ll fudge the data. Maybe I’ll outright lie to myself to feel more secure – as a defense against bad things happening. A prediction of bad things happening in the future sends me on a wild goose chase to defend against harm. And yet that harm is a prediction – one based on incomplete data that I “fill in” to make complete.

The more energy in the form of attention that I devote to trusting my prediction, the stronger the impact of fear upon my present. This makes attention key to a solution. What I attend to in the present, is what gets done. Focusing on fear, robs my present of energy required for action – and less gets done.

How Can I Bust the Fear Feed on My Attention?

First, realizing that predictions are just that – predictions based mostly on incomplete data – releases me from the trust I’ve placed in them. Predictions are NOT the truth – they are the workings of my imagination – and so, really should not be trusted. QUESTION predictions.

Next, FOCUSING ATTENTION ON WHAT IS HAPPENING in the present, redirects my energies away from unproductive fear based on imaginary probabilities to certain productive present action. This means doing an action right now that is firmly in the present – like making an inventory of my current physical sensations. What do I see, hear, feel – right now?

In this way, fear based on trust in an imaginary prediction gives way to solid, sensory-based, relatively certain present action. It may also bust a long-held, high-value fear and return precious energy for use elsewhere.

Suffering and the Arrow of Time

I sometimes ask myself, “Why do I do what I do when I know what I know?”

I’ve used this question to elicit a feeling of guilt for not meeting some standard I’ve set for myself or accepted from someone else.

Let’s investigate that question, check it for validity, “Is it true?” And learn something useful about “IT” in the process.

To start with, time rolls along in one direction – from past to present to future – called the arrow of time. I can imagine going into the past, yet I cannot actually do so. I must obey the arrow of time.

Investigations that follow the arrow of time tend to result in successful outcomes. Those that fail to take the arrow into account tend to result in suffering. Read more Suffering and the Arrow of Time