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Extreme Presence

I’m dating my ex-boyfriend after 1.5 years of being broken up. And it’s hard not to get stuck seeing him through the lens of the past.

How do I combat this? With extreme presence.

We often undermine our evolution (and the evolution of those around us) by assuming people will act like their old selves.

I recently watched Aquaman 2 (please don’t judge me) and there was a brilliant scene that captured this point.

Aquaman and his brother were possessed by an evil king making them fight each other. The scene would go back and forth between the two men, with the king hovering in the background bringing up past memories like a projector.

These memories were a highlight reel of the worst times between them — showing one brother having memories of when the other wronged him.

Finally, Aquaman began to call up positive, recent memories of him and his brother helping one another. And loving one another. It was only then that he could finally break the evil king’s spell.

How often do we let the demons of the past take us hostage in the present?

Humans are storytelling machines. We take facts and assume intentions and build elaborate storylines all the time.

This supposed ability to “predict” outcomes makes us feel safe.

But we don’t have a crystal ball and these aren’t predictions…they are speculations.

Yet we treat them as truth. We expect those stories to happen.

We then create the conditions for them to happen. And that reinforces our expectations.

It’s a vicious cycle.

How do you overcome this past storytelling urge?

With a technique I call Extreme Presencing, which combines therapeutic parts work with Buddhist mindfulness tactics. Here’s the breakdown:

  1. Honor your storytelling part Those ruminating thoughts about the worst-case scenario? That’s from a part trying to protect you. Thank the part for wanting security, but let it know it’s not driving your actions.
  2. Call in the energy of curiosity It’s time to acknowledge the reality of any unknown situation….it’s unknown. You don’t know how the other person will react to your feedback. Get curious. Stay open to any possibilities, including the best case scenario.
  3. Use extreme presencing techniques  When you’re in that tough conversation, use your senses to get extremely present. Look at them as if you were seeing them for the first time. Listen intently to the content of what they are saying. Write down exactly what they said (not what you think they said). Feel your seat in the chair and the temperature in the room.
  4. Label and release stories  Of course, old stories and memories will enter the room. When you see them, acknowledge them with the label of “story,” and release them by getting present again. You may have to do this 10 times in a conversation, that’s ok.

I’m happy to say these techniques have given space to my blossoming relationship with someone I’ve known for years.

I’m allowing him to become new for me.

And even if you’re not trying to mend fences, who wouldn’t want to make a long (romantic, co-founder, parent) relationship feel fresh again?

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