WHERE YOU SPEND YOUR MENTAL TIME
Here with Fundamental Eight, we again require you to examine your mental life as we have in the last few chapters. Yet here the focus switches a bit…
In the immediately preceding Chapters we asked you to examine your typical thoughts in terms of how often you worried, or in terms of positive to negative thoughts. We asked you to evaluate your thinking in terms of its optimistic or pessimistic content, and to examine how unrealistic your expectations were.
Now, we ask you to analyze your more preponderant thoughts in terms of time. To be specific, are you often thinking about the past? Or, are you usually thinking about the present? Or, are you, more typically, thinking about the future?
Generally, people’s thoughts can be naturally categorized as falling into five basic locations, depending on the time and emotional content of the thought in mind:
- the past-negative
- the past-positive
- the future-negative
- the future-positive
- the present
Past-negative thoughts are essentially memories that are unhappy. They can include thoughts of loss, guilt, past defeats, resentments, bitter feelings, and the like.
Past-positive thoughts are happy memories from the past; thoughts of past successes, accomplishments, or happy times.
Future-negative thoughts include forbidding, apprehension, concern, and pessimistic predictions; the negative kinds of thoughts we have about the future.
Future-positive thoughts are our more pleasant future idealizations — our dreams, our ambitions, our hopes, our fantasies for a better tomorrow.
The present, of course, is the here and now. Present thoughts are concentrated on the immediate world around us. Our mind is focused on the conversation, the activity, or the occurrences going on at the moment. In the present, our attention is on the immediate situation or is working within a present time-frame (either planning upcoming schedules or mentally-debriefing the past few days experience).
The borderlines between the past, present, and future are somewhat fuzzy because, mentally, most of us jump from one thought to another a thousand times a day; and those thoughts blend from positive to negative, and from past to present to future, continuously. Moreover, it is quite normal for one’s mind to conjure a thought or two in each of these categories during an average day. What counts, is how much time you spend in any of these categories!
Normally, our thoughts are a mixture of each of these five “time-zones.” For most of us, we sometimes reminisce about the past and we sometimes are preoccupied with the upcoming future, but most of the time we’re concentrating on the events at hand. Yet there are many individuals who focus little on the present. More than the average, their minds tend to continually drift away from the present — their preoccupation, largely in the past or in the future.
Based on the five categories above, I have found certain individuals who live, almost exclusively, in just one of these mental “time-zones.” Indeed, although not especially labeled as such by most clinicians, I like to think of such individuals as falling into five personality types — one for each of the time-zone categories.