Plan for the Future, Revel In the Past

Thinking man with family in background

The future may hold a lot of mystery, but it does not have to hold a lot of anxiety. When this comes up in therapy sessions, too often clients want to talk about the here and now, looking only for recent potential causes of worry.

I say the past is in play. In exploring a client’s past—their early memories, childhood experiences, relationship history, and so forth—we can usually uncover a great deal of pain that the client will agree to be a major source of the current issue, whatever it is.

What are your future worries? Hopefully, you do not have any. For those of us who may, and I know there are a ton of us out there, let’s look at some common worries. Finances/retirement, health, and the futures of our family/children seem to come up a lot in my work. I have come across a few people who claim to have no concerns about their future, but I must share that, sadly, this is not the norm.

“What if I don’t have enough money to retire? What if I think I am saving enough now but something catastrophic happens?” Concerns like this come up all the time; even I have worried about it. And, sure, I have felt off in my body and worried about the dreaded “c” word. Furthermore, any good parent wonders about his or her children’s futures with college, careers, and so forth.

But what happens when we go too far with our worries? Without even opening our mouths, our minds can play out angst-involving thoughts and scenarios, as we may keep it all inside. It does not have to be this way, though.

Bottom line, who are you talking with about these things? If you have a significant other, hopefully it is that person. Family, friends, a therapist, etc., can be wonderful options as well. It is amazing the resources we overlook or are scared to tap into, wondering if we’re imposing, whether someone thinks our question is silly, and so forth. Day after day, I see and hear from clients who believe they are alone in their struggles/worries, and they receive so much validation when they share with me or reach out to others and learn they are not alone and can get support. It is silly to suffer in silence.

The future can hold its mysteries. That’s OK. Truly, we do not have to know it all. Surprise can be a good thing as well, especially when we are prepared. We do not have to worry, but planning for the future can help. With regard to our finances, we can have savings accounts and other investments. Many clients access my services through an employee assistance program that their workplace offers. If you have these free services, the program may offer all kinds of wonderful support, including free investment meetings with a financial planner.

Going to the doctor for regular exams, as well as eating right and taking care of our bodies, helps us be physically healthy. Loving and being there to educate our children can help them too—not that they will choose to listen to everything we say. Remind yourself of your successes in planning for the future and taking care of yourself and your family. You probably are doing these things every day, yet may be too focused on the next thing instead of reinforcing and reflecting on all you have accomplished. Acknowledging these efforts can help with your outlook and positively impact anxiety levels.


© Copyright 2012 All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Stuart A. Kaplowitz, MFT, Anxiety Topic Expert Contributor

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • orly

    October 3rd, 2012 at 12:29 PM

    But I want to get rid of that past pain.
    Are you saying that this is something that I am required to revisit if I ever want to fully shed it?
    because I am nto sure that I am at a stage in life where I feel prepared to do that.

  • Farrah

    October 3rd, 2012 at 4:18 PM

    I am sure that there are certain situations where the past needs to be explored. This could especially be true in cases where there has been abuse in your past and that is holding you back from getting into normal and healthy relationships now.
    But I can’t see how always going back in time can always ensure a happier future, know what I mean? there are just as many things in my past that I would like to forget as there are that I would like to remember. If I am doing fine, then why rock the boat. Let’s choose to let it go and move forward. I basically don’t see anything wrong with that.

  • K.H

    October 4th, 2012 at 12:20 AM

    So the best way to stop worrying about the future is to have it planned? Isn’t the lack or inability to plan the resin for worrying in the first place?I think there really isn’t much we can do about the future than to teach ourselves to think and worry at little less about it.

  • Carole

    October 4th, 2012 at 4:00 AM

    If you are so intent on running away from the past then there is clearly something there that you are repressing and need, or wish to hide. I don’t care one way or another if this is your choice for living. But do you really want to spend the rest of your life running away from things that could ultimately set you free if you would just make it a goal to confron it and overcome it? We are strong people, and yes the past and looking back to the past can hurt. But I have always felt like we learn better from our mistakes that we have made and that others have committed against us. So it seems to me that to be your very best overall, you would want to stop running away and actually find a way to move on and move forward.

  • Stuart Kaplowitz

    October 4th, 2012 at 9:32 AM

    I appreciate what you said Farrah. For many though, they have not truly addressed it before (or thoroughly) to then best move forward. Yes. Orly. I do believe it may be beneficial but good for you in knowing yo may not be ready.

  • Stuart Kaplowitz

    October 4th, 2012 at 9:35 AM

    Very insight all. I like how you framed some of this Carole. KH – we can indeed plan some (or at least have a general idea of a plan) as well as examine what might get in the way of this happening and, yes, some of this I believe may be related to unresolved past issues. I do think letting go needs to involve accepting us (our decisions, mistakes, whatever) as well and focusing on what we learned instead

  • annabelle

    October 4th, 2012 at 11:24 AM

    Know why I think people are so afraid of looking at the past for answers?
    they are too scared of what they might find lurking there

  • debbie

    October 4th, 2012 at 3:52 PM

    its never a good idea to worry too much about the past or be anxious about the future.if theres something you can do then it is to do things that will end your anxiety,things that will ensure your worst fears do not come true.just sitting there and worrying will not get you anywhere,except maybe in a huge anxiety state!

  • Dale

    October 5th, 2012 at 4:14 AM

    I have looked over this article a few times since I saw it, and it finally hit me this morning just what I need to take away from it.
    I thought that it was weird for you to imply that we need to look back on the past with such fondness when many of us are so committed to making it in the future.
    But what I finally got this morning is not that I have to stay stuck in the past but that I at leats need to give myself credit for the htings that I have achieved and accomplished and to own those things instead of always pushing them to the side for something bigger and better.

  • Stuart Kaplowitz

    October 5th, 2012 at 10:05 AM

    Yes!!!! SMILE

  • Dale

    October 8th, 2012 at 4:00 AM

    @ Stuart :) !!!!!!

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