THE FUTURE MOSTLY DEPENDS ON YOUR OWN THINKING POWER. SO, NOT DWELL ON THE “HELL” PAST
“It is far more important for man to know whom he wants to become than who he is now”
— JOSEPH NUTTIN
Everyone wants to feel good, everyone wants to thrive, yet many people don’t know how to make this happen. Future Directed Therapy (FDT) is a whole new approach to improving how we function, based on the idea that because we can only move forward in time, we can only fully be understood as beings continuously in the process of becoming. The “future” in Future Directed Therapy is not necessarily far off in time; it can refer to any point in time beyond the present moment, near or far. Rather, FDT is about understanding that because we can only move forward, most of our thinking and behavior is anticipatory or future oriented.
We constantly speculate about what will happen, whether in the very next moment, tomorrow, or five years from now, and that has a huge impact on how we process information, how we feel about different situations, how we interact with our environment, and ultimately how we create our lives.
Although we often think the past dictates our behavior, the future is what really motivates most of our actions. Whether you are motivated to go to the kitchen because you anticipate eating something delicious, or you are motivated to save money because you want to buy a new home, or you are motivated to take any other action you could possibly imagine, you act because you expect a certain desired result.
The past is relevant only to the extent that we use it to predict the future.
A primary premise of Future Directed Therapy is that what people want (any desired future state) is the fundamental motivating force behind their behavior. Often we act to avoid something undesirable, but it is our desire to avoid the unwanted that drives our behavior. For example, if you decide not to go to an anxiety-provoking party, it is because you want to avoid an uncomfortable situation. Because we believe that the things we want will bring about some desired future state,
when we focus our thinking on what we want, we experience positive emotions.
When you think about having a positive experience in the future or getting something you want, you feel great; when you think about taking actions to avoid an uncomfortable situation, you feel relief.
However, when we focus on what we don’t want, we experience emotional distress and suffering. If instead you think about missing out on an opportunity to see your friends or disappointing the person who invited you to the party, you may feel guilt or sadness. We can have thoughts about both the wanted and the unwanted aspects of any situation. If you want to lose weight, you can think about how great it will feel when you do (wanted) or how lousy it is to give up your favorite foods (unwanted). Our minds tend to jump between wanted and unwanted situations all day long without our ever even realizing it is happening.
The key to thriving is learning to harness the mind’s natural tendency to anticipate the future so that you can focus most of your attention on what you would like to achieve. This not only brings you positive emotions, but it also activates a series of mental functions that actually increase your ability to obtain what you desire. Whenever you think about your desired future state, several solution-generating, problem-solving mechanisms in your brain kick into gear. However, when you focus on what you don’t want and you experience the resulting negative emotions, this inhibits the area of your brain responsible for these functions from working properly.
The longer you think about what you want, the harder these mechanisms work, often leading to ideas and solutions that never would have occurred to you if you had not focused on your desired future.
You must learn how to experience more positive emotions and to thrive more by focusing on what you want; it will teach you the skills you need to begin creating your future by choice. While FDT comes from the field of psychology, it is far more than just a form of therapy. It is a way to live that maximizes the full potential of all human beings to create the experiences they want.
I learned that people could make changes by modifying their thoughts and behaviors in the present moment. While I found cognitive therapy to be substantially more practical and tangible for my clients, it still left many unanswered questions about what motivated change, and clients often found that labeling their thinking as irrational, one of the common tools of cognitive therapy, seemed to invalidate their experiences.
A fundamental premise of Future Directed Therapy is that all human beings desire to thrive. In FDT thriving is defined as a dynamic state of growth and of moving forward toward improved life circumstances from wherever one is in the present. Everyone wants to thrive, though everyone has a different idea of what thriving is, based on his or her circumstances. For some people, thriving might be the opportunity to eat regular meals; for some, it might be buying a yacht; for others, it might be attaining spiritual enlightenment. Thriving is about constantly feeling you can grow, move forward, and improve your life circumstances.
It is well documented that no matter what we achieve, we are never satisfied for very long. While many explanations of this phenomenon have been offered, such as the idea that our ability to experience happiness is limited or that discontent is a moral deficiency, in FDT the constant desire to thrive and move forward is viewed as a psychological drive with a biological basis. New technological advances allowing us to study brain functioning have revealed the critical role that the area of the brain responsible for reward processing plays in our daily lives.
Rewards are the things we look forward to in the future; they are essential to our emotional well-being.
The absence of rewards leads to negative emotions, which is why the onset of many psychiatric conditions is often linked to the loss of the things people find rewarding, such as relationships or jobs. Unfortunately, people with a wide variety of emotional problems experience impairments in their brains’ ability to identify or process rewards. This may explain why, even when someone has many positive things in his life, when he is feeling down he finds it much easier to focus on the negative. Someone with an impaired reward system might have a great job but only focus on the long commute there, or easily recall a critical comment about a work project, but seem unable to hear the twenty compliments that were also given.
When the brain’s reward-processing system doesn’t operate properly, not only do people become depressed, but they also lose the desire to pursue what they want.
Even activities that may have felt exciting and rewarding before, such as going to a concert or a movie, seem like too much effort. This is because when certain neurotransmitters in the brain’s reward-processing center, particularly dopamine, are low, this condition can lead us to overestimate the costs associated with pursuing things that would be rewarding, making the depressed person feel as if it isn’t worth exerting the effort to obtain something wanted.Not surprisingly, when the reward center in a person’s brain is underactive, he ends up participating in fewer activities that would provide stimulation to this brain region.
Going to the concert or the movie, whether or not he felt like it, would activate this part of the brain, and he would feel better.One hypothesis in FDT is that the desire to pursue rewards and to thrive promotes the evolutionary progression of humankind.
Every human invention, from the first stone tool to the supercomputers we use today, has been driven by the desire to improve our circumstances.
In order for forward movement and thriving to continue, there must always be a difference between where we are in life and where we want to be. In FDT we believe that our desire to close this gap creates what is referred to as the need to want. Humans need to want things in order to keep moving forward. And what we want is always in the future.
We cannot move forward without exerting a want, intent, or desire. If you finish reading this page, it is because you want to do so. Each time we realize a future-oriented desire, a new desire emerges.
Every action is a choice that requires intent or desire in order for it to manifest as a physical experience.
In FDT we believe that when people feel they have the power to obtain what they want, they experience well-being.
However, when they feel they are unable to move into their desired future state, they experience distress. If you decided you wanted to go for a walk and buy ice cream, and someone told you that you had no choice but to sit in a chair and read this book until the very end, whether or not you wanted to, you would probably find this upsetting
We use a creative thought process to generate ideas about what we want, develop plans to obtain what we want, and initiate the actions needed to make our plans become reality. If you decide you want ice cream, for example, your brain immediately starts to think of ways to make this occur — you think about where to buy the ice cream, what kind you want to buy, and so forth. This process leads to planning and problem solving that increase your likelihood of realizing your desire.
In FDT we believe that people experience emotional suffering when they spend too much time thinking about what they do not want. Pretty much anything you can think of that makes you feel bad is something you don’t want. I don’t want my car to break down, I don’t want my husband to leave me, I don’t want to lose my job, I don’t want my parents to die.
It gets a bit more complex when at first you start to think about what you do want, but then you shift your focus to something you don’t want on the same subject. If you decide you want ice cream because it is hot outside and it sounds like a refreshing treat but then start thinking about the ice cream making you fat, which is an outcome you don’t want, instead of feeling good about the ice cream, you will start to feel anxious.
It is important to recognize that when you have a desire but don’t yet have what you want, this is an unwanted state. For example, if you want a relationship but don’t have one, not having one is something unwanted. Often people think they are focusing on what they want, but if they are not feeling good about it, what they are likely focusing on is the fact that they do not yet have what they want. I really want to be more organized but my house is such a mess; I get overwhelmed thinking about it. They may draw conclusions that what they want makes them anxious so they try not to think about it. But this is never the case. Negative emotions are always the result of giving attention to some unwanted aspect of a situation.
FDT teaches people to recognize that their emotions are indicators of what they’ve been thinking about.
In other words, if you are experiencing a positive emotion such as gratitude or contentment, you are focused on the wanted aspect of a subject, but if you are feeling a negative emotion such as anger or fear, it is because you are thinking about something in your life that you do not want. It is specifically this focus on the unwanted thing or situation that moves you away from a state of thriving and leads to emotional distress. If you think long enough about what you do not want in your life, you may become depressed or anxious.
In FDT people are taught to observe their feelings and to shift the focus of their thinking toward more of what they want in life.
To put it simply, FDT is about helping people to identify the process by which they create their future and to direct the process in a way that generates a greater sense of thriving and well-being. In this book you will learn how your thoughts about the future are often based on existing limiting belief systems and how to create new, more positive expectations about what the future holds. You will also learn how to better allocate your valuable resources, such as thought, behavior, and time, toward obtaining more of what you desire, by clarifying and prioritizing your wants based on what you value.
Another important skill you will learn is to define realistic goals and also to deal more effectively with the aspects of a situation that are beyond your control.
An important concept in FDT is the idea that humans grow and expand through experience, and you will learn to use those times when you do not get what you want as opportunities for growth and self-awareness.
Many of the techniques outlined here are based on what psychologists refer to as a “neurobehavioral approach,” which looks at how your brain and your behavior work together.
A good deal of research has shown that you can activate parts of your brain at will, with your attention and behavior.
While this can be challenging at first, over time you can learn to change your brain’s structures and the way it functions.10 The brain is a lot like a sophisticated computer — it can do wonderful things if you know how to use it, but if you don’t, you both miss out on its benefits and become quite frustrated. Once you know how your brain works, you can make it work for you. Many of the practice exercises in this book will help you learn the skills to purposefully generate the mental activity, and eventually the behaviors, that can turn what you want into an experience you actually live.
— Thanks to ” Think forward to thrive”
Thinking Forward is the mental process of creating a new mindset. This requires the individual to establish a starting point and then travel on a cognitive journey moving forward in a positive direction. The process is based upon constructing new mental models based on a paradox for the possibility of improvement, balanced with the understandig of what is already known. – Dr Dale deardorff