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  • Mark Brafield

Looking forward to the past


January, as every schoolboy knows, is named after Janus, the Roman god with two faces who could look forwards to the future as well as back to the past, and the New Year is a time when, traditionally, we do same.

Trying to understand the past, so as to loosen its grip on the present, is the seen as the preserve of psychoanalysis. Auden's view of Freud was that -

'He wasn't clever at all. he merely told

the unhappy Present to recite the Past ...'

By contrast, solution - focused therapies prefer to concentrate on the future. Whatever burdens and limitations the past might impose, if you can imagine what a different future might look like, what it might feel like, and even how others might even see you differently, then the brain will literally start to model that future internally and the life will follow.

But even then, the past cannot be ignored. It is not uncommon for those experiencing the real changes that solution - focused work can bring to feel a degree of nervousness as they outgrow old behaviours. That might be interpreted as fear; can they survive without those old behaviours ? Will they fall back into the clutches of the past ? What happens here, in fact, is that fear from the past presents as fear of the future, in the same way that past loss can sometimes present itself as a nostalgia for a future that has already, somehow, been lost as well.

Happily, with the guidance of an experienced therapist, that fear is quickly identified for what it is and, as so often, identification leads rapidly to resolution. The Norwegian novelist Karl - Ove Knausgaard puts it well when he suggests that 'the past is only one of a number of possible futures'.

As we bid farewell to 2017 and look forward to the 2018, may I wish everyone a Happy New Year.


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