How To Build a Mental Time Machine
There was this really cool movie called “The Butterfly Effect,” that came out a few years ago. They made a sequel that was OK, but not nearly as powerful as the original. The reason it was called “The Butterfly Effect,” was because of part of something called “Chaos Theory.” The name, of course is a misnomer, as Chaos means behaving without any set of rules. The chaos in Chaos theory though refers to not having any discernable rules or observable cause/effect phenomenon.
The weather is a great example of Chaos Effect in action. There are many different variables, and they are all strongly interactive. A change here, will effect a change there, which will in turn affect a change over, which will cause a change back here, and so on. Because we humans have a fairly limited capacity when it comes to having instincts for multi variable systems, it appears chaotic and impossible to describe even using our best computes. That’s why when they predict the rain, they give percentages rather than absolutes. No matter how sophisticated our machines and computers get, due to the nature of the system, we still have to guess about the weather.
The term “Butterfly Effect” refers to a butterfly flapping it’s wings on one side of the planet, and the effect rippling through the complex interactive meteorological system, and eventually causing a hurricane on the other side of the world.
It was also alluded to in a story by Ray Bradbury, where a group of scientists created a time machine. They were getting set to go on their first mission, but they were strongly admonished not to interact at all with anything they saw in the past, as it would have an unknown effect in the future. So they went back in time, and were looking around. One of the scientists saw a butterfly, and decided to collect it. This of course, violated the rules of “non interaction.” When they returned to the present, everything was vastly changed, language, society, government, everything. One butterfly changed the entire future.
There was even an episode of the Simpson’s where Homer had a time machine, and they kept trying to come back to the normal present, but kept messing up. In one particular future they came back to, it was raining donuts, but they had big tongues like lizards.
If you’ve seen the movie, “The Butterfly Effect,” you know it follows the same pattern. The character can go back in time and relive part of his past, and when he comes back to the present, everything is changed. Every time he comes back, everything seems good, until he discovers something horribly wrong, and he has to go back and change something again.
While that is only a movie, and the idea of a butterfly causing a hurricane on the other side of the planet is largely metaphorical for the complex interactions in nature, there actually is a way to go back and change part of your past.
The way we are today, our behaviors, attitudes, and beliefs about our capabilities are based largely on what we have experienced and how we remember our past. While this is horrible news if you come with a bunch of baggage from an unpleasant or abusive childhood, it doesn’t have to be that way.
This is because our past is not really as solid as we think. Our own personal histories are based much more on our interpretation of events rather than the events themselves. If we can go back and somehow give a different interpretation to the events of the past, we can change our present.
Some people can do this pretty easy in the present. They’ll be walking down the street, bump into somebody, get cussed out, and simply write it off as the other guy having a bad day, without taking personal offense. The same is possible with our past, even though it’s already happened.
When we were kids, we didn’t have a lot of resources or a lot of experience, so there were only so many ways we could respond to bad things that happened to us. We didn’t have the adult experience to write it off as somebody simply having a bad day, as the example above.
If you have a particularly painful memory from the past, here’s a great way to “re program” your history.
Sit back, relax, and close your eyes. Drift back to that “event” that is still causing you problems today. Watch the event unfold. Watch it again, but freeze the frame every so often, and look at the other people involved in the event with a more adult, forgiving attitude. Maybe they just didn’t know any better. Maybe they were expressing their own pain the best way they could. Give them the benefit of the doubt as much as you can. Remember the wise words of Nelson Mandela: “Holding a grudge is like swallowing poison and hoping the other person dies.”
Stay dissociated, that is, watch the event unfolding, as if you are some kind of ghost from the future watching it unfold. After you’ve given as much adult understand as you can to all the players involved, watch it again, but this time, step in and interact with your child self. Explain to your child self who you are (yourself from the future) and what is really going on. Tell them whatever all the other people are doing, it’s nothing personal. Make sure your child self understand.
Now for the cool part. Go back and relive that experience, but this time as associated as you can. Float into your child’s body, but this time, really feel and experience your future self giving you guidance and support as the event unfolds. As a child, listen to the advice of your future self. Run through this several times.
This may seem awkward, and perhaps even emotionally painful at first, but just like with any other exercise, you’ll get better with practice. Pretty soon you’ll be able blink yourself back into your past, and re organize your responses to what happened, and give yourself a much brighter future. Just like Richard Bandler, the co founder of NLP said, “It’s never too late to have a happy childhood.”
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