The Conundrum of Presence and Repression

by Jimmy Warden

For quite some time now, I have been trying each day to be as “present” as I can. I try to notice when I am distracted (which can be quite hard with smartphones) in thought, feeling, or phone, and make the adjustment to change my focus to the present moment. This has helped me grow my patience tremendously in just a few years of conscious practice and repetition. I still get distracted many a times throughout each and every day, but my developed awareness helps minimize the duration of my distractions. It can be mentally taxing, but it is worth it in the end. Your focus increases, as well as time on task, and it seemed my creativity has remained strong.

It wasn’t until recently that I realized “being present” can actually have some negative effects. For example, if I say something that I shouldn’t, perhaps I insult someone or make a false assumption, in order to “be present” I’ll have to move on from that mistake quickly and refocus my attention to the present moment. However, this doesn’t always mean that the problem gets solved. These types of interactions don’t just “go away”. This is why people try to say “sorry” after a blunder like this because “sorry” doesn’t always cut it. The person or people that I intruded upon will remember what I said. They will remember my character in that moment. This is the conundrum that it creates.

I am not saying that we need to pulverize our past selves with the hammer of regret about what we said or did, but rather we need to try to not repeat mistakes. The more that we repress useful information the more we will repeat mistakes over and over again. When this happens, our value as a human only decreases. To say the same is even to get worse. Who wants to hang out with a 30-year old with the behavior patterns of their 12-year old self? Nobody does, so we need to learn and grow simultaneously. This is also why reflection and introspection have so much value, which cannot be done while “being present” because we have to imagine our past and basically forget the present moment.

Reflection and introspection can help us become better versions of ourselves. There is an analogy in the Bible that can be paraphrased as, “a human that repeats their folly is like a dog who eats its own vomit” , which means that both parties are foolish in their behaviors given they have lived the outcome before. It is senseless to make the same mistakes over and over again because we know what the result will be. Yet, we make these mistakes every day in our communication with other people, with behaviors we’ve manifested into habits, and with our approach to life’s obstacles. If we reflect and think of what we could have done differently in certain situations, we now have information to how to approach that situation differently and not make the same mistake again. This is why there is the cliche “actions speak louder than words”. We can talk all we want about how we won’t do something again, but soon enough we’ve habituated right back into it, because we’re back in the present moment.

At the end of the day, I am all for “being present”, but we mustn’t be so present that we repress our mistakes, let alone our thoughts (ooh, another blog idea!). If we do this, we are apt to make the same mistakes over and over again, which does not lead to an enjoyable or meaningful life. It will effect our relationships with people and it will put our character in question. So take some time to think things through, even if it takes multiple days. The less you repress, is best, which will leaving you feeling like a great success. 🙂

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