I’m surprised to admit that I’ve been looking to the past lately. I preach living in the present and recreating your future. And I encourage seeing the past as a lesson, so it’s a bit of a shock that I find myself in some sort of nostalgic reminiscing land. As I continue on the quest to find my new place, I also find myself missing the home that I spent 20 years to build.
I used to be perplexed by the tenacity of some people to hold on so tightly to a failing marriage. “I should talk.” I would say to myself. But here I am, over 12 years since my separation and I’m going backward? This doesn’t make sense. But does it?
WHY DO WE RUMINATE?
According to an article in Psychology Today by Christopher Bergland, “The Brain Mechanics of Rumination and Repetitive Thinking” ; he mentions a study that links the prefrontal cortex with the brain’s default mode network (DMN).
This 2015 study by Hamilton et al, called Depressive Rumination, the Default-Mode Network, and the Dark Matter of Clinical Neuroscience, suggests that “depressive ruminations are more likely to emerge when the firing and increased cerebral blood flow to a specific region of the cerebrum called the subgenual prefrontal cortex (sgPFC) synchronizes with the default mode network (DMN)”
Simply put, when we are sad and thinking about a past event our brain gets stuck in a feedback loop between these 2 areas of the brain. You know that feeling of being stuck in a room of your sad thoughts and you can’t seem to get out of it? That’s what was going on for me the other day.
MISSING HOME TO FIND THE FUTURE
This has all come about because of my youngest son. He just loved our old neighborhood. Well, we all did really. But he still connects to many of his childhood friends in the old hood and now that he can drive, he’s been taking me on these “blast from the past” tours of his old stomping grounds.
Last night, he took me to “Secret Beach” where he and his friends used to sneak to, at the crack of dawn when no one was around. I had heard about “Secret Beach” for years and was thrilled to have the mystery solved. And it got me thinking about all of the experiences I had in the old hood.
It’s been about 5 years since my divorce was finalized when I lost my house in the shakedown. I let go of it really easily back then. I had to. It was a survival mechanism. I cut that cord with decisive precision. I couldn’t linger on the pain of it all in order to move on and create a new home for myself and my children. Now that it’s so far away, I find myself on a quest to find my new place. I want to redefine what home is and while doing this, I’m falling backward and missing the home we once had.
IS LOOKING TO THE PAST A BAD THING?
When you look to the past to learn from your mistakes, this is a positive thing. However, if you linger on the past and have a hard time staying in the present, this is where the suffering is. I’ve seen it in clients as I help them out of the fog of the past.
I call it the “loneliness loop.” When we decide to stay in the familiar discomfort of past events, this can create depression, disconnection, and prolonged stagnation in our lives. It’s like the purgatory I described when I was in my 5-year divorce. Your life doesn’t progress but instead, you keep yourself in life limbo. And the longer you stay there the harder it is to get out.
PAST FOCUS = DEPRESSION AND ANXIETY
In a 2017 study with 372 participants, from UK psychologists, participants were asked to complete a Temporal Focus Survey designed to measure the effects of being focused on the past, present and future.
They were grouped into 5 categories; those who were focused in the past, present and future, those with multiple focus and those not focused on any particular times at all. The most significant mental health response was with the group focused on the past.
Turns out that the group most focused on the past had the worst mental health. In fact, they suffered the most from depression and anxiety. This study proved what Gurus have known for thousands of years, if you live in the past you create your own suffering.
This brings me back to the question I ask myself, why am I missing home so much? And why am I so focused on this one neighborhood as the be-all and end-all of where I was most content? Remember all the conflict, tension and stress as well. How can you forget that?
Am I really missing home? The actual neighborhood or the feeling of belonging to something significant? Something grounded like a neighborhood, trees, and beach are perfect examples of the need to be connected to mother earth. I do miss that part in my quest to find my new place. Perhaps it’s just because I’m not happy where I am now. Perhaps I’m at a place in my life where my definition of home is changing again.
MY QUEST TO FIND MY PLACE
I can’t deny that I have found myself saying that, “the happiest time of my life was when I was a full-time mother when my children were small.” And I catch myself and notice how this dialogue has hindered me from finding my new happy rhythm and yes, it’s true, I become more melancholy when I’m reminiscing. Just like the study said.
I remind myself that it’s just a story and I have the power to change my mindset. So, I switch it around and start telling myself that I’m happy in my new life, with the new freedom and unlimited opportunities I have. It’s all true.
And, then there is my old neighborhood with the beach and boardwalk that I took evening walks on. The steep streets perfect for those power walks. My favorite local café and community theatre. The friendly barbershop my kids had their first haircuts in. Big Sigh. Then I remember something my therapist told me.
In all her wisdom, this one phrase hit a deep feeling nerve and it’s been my guiding light since. In my quest to find my place again and my struggle to stay in the present and resist missing home, I am reminded that “I am home” and that I can create that same feeling of security, connection to community and love of my life where ever I am. #truth