So I’ve finally had the chance to start reading “The Walking Dead Psychology: Psych of the Living Dead” (Travis Langley, Ed.), and even in the intro, there are interesting things to think about. In his intro, Langley quotes Hershel, from The Walking Dead (TWD) Episode 4-8: “Ever since I gave Glenn my watch, it’s always ‘right now” for me.” This is one concept that I will often talk to my clients about.
For many of my clients who are struggling with anxiety, there are too many thoughts about what I did in the past, what I didn’t do in the past, what might happen in the future, what I should/shouldn’t do if that happens…the list is endless. Our creative minds can do a real number on us, coming up with so many thoughts that cause us worry or regret, which get expressed as anxiety. So if I’m working with someone from a cognitive perspective (thinking about our thoughts), the challenge is to stop all the anxious thoughts and think more productive thoughts.
So I have to help them come up with different kinds of thoughts, and one way to do that is with “here and now” thinking—what is happening right here, right now, and how can I behave in this moment. So for the client who is worried about where his relationship is going with the new boyfriend, can he enjoy the positive moments in the relationship “right now?” For the student who is worried about where she might go to college, and what career will she have after that, can she appreciate the skills she’s building now and hone those skills so that, no matter where she goes or what she does, those skills will serve her well?
Of course, this is balanced with goal setting, which shouldn’t be ignored. But setting goals should be a productive, deliberate process. The kind of fretting and worry that I’m talking about here is not productive because it’s uncontrolled and based in irrational thinking—worse case scenario thinking is not the same as logical planning and goal setting.
In TWD, their “right now” is about making sure they are safe, that their walls or fences are secure, or taking out the walkers when they are an immediate threat. But once they get to a location that is more secure (i.e. the prison or Alexandria) they then have the luxury to do some more long-term planning. They scavenge stores of food and ammunition; they plant crops; they build relationships. When your “right now” is more settled, less chaotic, you then have the time and energy (both physical and emotional) to put into more long-term goals. Plus, if you have relationships with others, you have more human resources to help you with the long-term goals. By helping clients focus on their “right now,” and helping them manage the issues of the moment, they can then focus on building relationships and gathering physical and emotional resources to move forward with their long-term goals, without being overwhelmed on a day-to-day basis.
So what about your “right now?” Can you focus on the positive things you have? Or is there one task that you can take care of here and now, to feel a sense of accomplishment? Once you have “right now” managed, you can start to do some rational, deliberate long-term goal setting, without feeling overwhelmed.