Often, when we’re afraid about the future or experiencing anxiety about where our life is going, I don’t think it’s because of a fear of the future, I think it’s actually because of fear of the past.
Whether it’s frustration over things that haven’t happened, or fear or anger about things that did happen or could happen, trying to control our fear about the future ends up being this paralyzing, constrictive process because it’s limited to correcting that past experience, rather than being open to new possibilities and uncertainties and maybes that we can’t even conceive of.
OCD can seem like it’s all about trying to avoid what-ifs and anxieties about the future, but those anxieties we try to control generally come from some kind of past experience, and can even be triggered just by hearing about something bad that happened to somebody else, like a terrible traffic accident, or plane crash, or home burglary, etc. So even if we’re obsessing about how we don’t want to have something bad happen in the future, the judgement about whether that event is bad or not comes from the past.
Whether it’s OCD or another mental illness or just everyday general “normal” worry about the future, it actually sticks us in the past and robs us of our future. Being healthy when it comes to anxiety about the future and being open to the future is all about embracing the potential and possibility and unknowns in the future, and separating those from the past. Trying to control the future inevitably creates more of the past.
Being open to possibilities and being ready to act according to your values whatever may come, will, surprisingly, make the future more closely align with what you want it to look like. And I think that’s because we can’t control the future, but we can control how we act in it.