Ever have a friend in crisis who can’t stop telling you the same stories over and over? Maybe you’ve caught yourself doing this when you’re struggling. A death, break up, job change, or other life-altering event can send us spinning. It’s as if a piece of a puzzle went missing and some part of us believes that if we keep going over and over the same story maybe that puzzle piece will be found. Maybe the puzzle will get solved and look different.
I once made a mistake that was very costly to me and my family. The circumstances were utterly unfair and other people’s behavior was truly unbelievable. It wasn’t the kind of mistake I could correct, like a typo, it was real life and there was nothing I could do but stay in my own integrity and move forward. Knowing this didn’t stop my mind from going over and over and over the issue hunting for a more reasonable and fair-minded result.
Not only was my mind spending a good amount of time, day after day, going over and over what happened—looking for a solution, replaying the situation—it was using my dreams for the same purpose. Even in sleep I couldn’t escape my mind’s retelling of the situation. It was straight up maddening and utterly exhausting!
Intellectually, I knew the preoccupation wasn’t helpful. I mean, I study this stuff for a living already! But, intellect certainly wasn’t running the show at the time and it wasn’t going to solve my mind’s gymnastics either. Preoccupation was fully in charge and, as I watched my mind tumble, toil, and turn, it was starting to feel like I’d bought a front row ticket to the “fix the past show.” I wanted to leave the theater, but I felt stuck to the seat, affixed by old, hard candy.
When our minds become consumed by preoccupation it creates a tremendous energy drain. Sometimes simple tasks become complicated because all of our energy is going toward the mind’s “fix the past” desires. It’s like leaving the dome light on in your car. If you catch it early, the car battery will be fine. But leave that light on over night or longer and you’re guaranteed to hear that dreadful “click, click, click” the next time you put the key in the ignition. Battery drained.
It’s hard to experience the fullness of life when our battery is drained from preoccupation. There is absolutely a part of the mind that truly believes that it is possible to change the past. Preoccupation is the mind’s counter-productive protection mechanism urging us to take action now to stop the pain of the past. Mind says “oh no, there’s emotional pain! Let’s fix that right away. Here are some stories, chemicals, and bad ideas to get you started. Never mind none of it is actually possible, just do something!” And so the internal struggle commences and stuck-ness continues.
Here’s the thing: at first, talking it out with friends or family can be useful, even cathartic. But it’s not always necessary or helpful to go over the past’s traumatic events in detail again and again. There is plenty of evidence indicating that too much talking or processing can actually be damaging because it reinforces the wiring in our brains towards the impossible task of changing the past, which can lead to depression, anger, and hopelessness.
I like to think of the mind as a puppy. Until there is proper training, that cute little puppy with the big eyes and floppy ears is a little out of control—chewing furniture, chasing the cat, peeing on the floor, biting people. And what does training a puppy require? The same thing human brains need—patience, practice, and gentle persistence.
As for my situation, Rapid Resolution Therapy created by Jon Connelly helped get my mind unstuck. And, yes, it took patience, practice and persistence. Healing is a process and set backs are just part of that process. It’s part of what makes us human. But with the right tools and understanding we can navigate choppy emotional waters with greater ease, recover more quickly when we get knocked off balance, and experience less ongoing or chronic distress—returning to basically regulated states with more ease and frequency. In this process of healing we learn to handle the stuck parts so there is less energy drain when life’s puzzle pieces don’t quite fit.