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Time travel to combat despair

What if we can talk to ourselves in the future? What would we say?

What if we can?

Over the past many weeks, I’ve attended the “Hope Intervention” series many times to learn and practice communicating with myself in the past and future in order to maintain a more stable state of “wellness” given, well, everything. The series started in March, and the final session in the series is tomorrow (Friday June 19th, 2020).

What is hope?

For me, I think of hope as thinking that there’s something for me in the future. I want to add “better” in there a bit, as in “something better in the future” but I don’t know that it’s required. Depending on my situation, hope might be that I believe I will continue to have access to food, shelter, water, and the ability to see and support the people I love. Or that things that spark joy might happen.

Dr. Julia Mossbridge, the executive director of the Institute for Love and Time, defines hope as a “robust future-orientation” in the first session of Hope Intervention. A “future-based optimism, faith, intentions, and plans that support your future thriving”. When I re-visit that idea, compared to what I wrote, I see that even though there’s a “future-basis” hope is actually very relevant to the present, and not only thinking or belief, but actions and plans to support a future.

This definition of hope as future-orientation is also extensive, adaptive, and habitual. Meaning, it’s not “I have hope for the next 10 minutes of my life” but months, and years. Adaptive meaning that it’s realistic, and flexible: “I can try, even if it might not work, I’ll learn something.” And habitual meaning it’s an orientation, it’s not something with lots of conscious effort.

There’s been research that future-orientation has overall positive outcomes for people, according to this 2018 study and others.

On despair

“Fear is a physiological response to anticipation of the future.” Some possible responses to this are either dread or hope. The combination of fear and dread is despair. The combination of fear and hope is courage.

The way that fear is transcended is not by getting rid of the fear, it’s by allowing the fear, and being in a motivational state of hope. Which is easier said than done for a lot of people.

That’s a quote from the second session of the Hope Intervention series, which had a focus on fear and despair that really resounded with me.

Because especially in March, the belief that “things are bad, and they are going to get worse” felt very real to me. And the crux of combating despair is enforcing the belief that your future self loves you.

If you’re interested in working on loving your present self, I can’t recommend The Body Is Not an Apology enough (it’s not very long, and was available in audiobook from my local library). And particularly feeling isolated, and not feeling comfortable trusting information from the government, or generally, trusting anyone because a lot of people were in not-very-good-places in March and being on the receiving end of lashing out is No Fun, connecting with myself as a skill to develop has been extremely helpful.

Time travel meditation

This is not what The Institute for Love and Time (TILT) per se calls it, but I think it’s fairly accurate, and very importantly, sounds cool.

In the series, we first practiced going back in time (acting in the present as the future self for the past). I would think back to a difficult time of my life, and feel compassion for that version of myself and what she was going through, and offer reassurance that she will be here (me) one day. In further sessions, we practiced going back in time in a shorter interval: Think of a difficult time you had last week, or yesterday, or earlier today (not difficult these days!).

Once we’d practiced going back, we started practicing going forward, or sending energy in different directions. One week, our homework was to meditate in the morning receiving love and compassion from our future selves, and in the evening, send that love and compassion to your morning self.

If you’d like to try it, I recommend checking out the Hope Intervention series, where the videos are all online. I hope in the future, there will be more content as far as learning this technique, because I find it very helpful.

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