Present or Future: How Do You Decide?
Posted by Dr. Vollmer on February 27, 2014
Balance is the point, and yet, the struggle to live in the present versus the future is palpable for some. How much do you save for retirement, versus enjoying your money now? How much should a twenty-something enjoy their youth versus setting up a career path? This dilemma, leaving out the glaring issue, of those who live in the past, who do not stay current with today’s culture, can create a clash of values. Classically speaking, parents want their kids to secure a future, whereas young adults often make the present more important. Is this a generational issue, or is forward-thinking a necessary developmental step towards a deeper existence? On the other hand, is living in the present a skill which too many ambitious people lack? Is it admirable to enjoy life, even if the future seems precarious? Samantha, thirty-five, comes to mind. She loves her life. She has nice friends and she works as a nanny, loving the children she sees five days a week. She has no mind for a career, but she is bright and well-educated. She is financially independent and proud of that. She wants children, but she thinks that “will happen” without much thought that she is not married, and her eggs are ticking. Samantha’s issue? Her dad disapproves of her life. He wants her to have a career, a husband and a baby. Samantha feels dismayed by his disapproval, but not enough to change her life, but enough to enter into psychotherapy. “Maybe you care what your dad thinks, because a part of you agrees with him?” I say, wondering why her dad’s impressions are so important to her. “Well, yes, of course I agree. I know he wants good things for me, but I am happy and why should I change that?” She asks, as if there is no good answer. “Because life is a juggling act between present-day happiness and preparing for a future,” I say, reminding her that forward-thinking is universally beneficial, but too much, like so many things, is detrimental to mental health. “OK, so I am not juggling that right now. I guess I should but I repeat that I like my life and see no reason to change it.” Samantha says ardently. “Well, that would make sense, except you are here with me, because something does not feel right,” trying gently to access her distress, as “I like my life” although true on one level, is also a defense, on another. “Maybe you are scared to think about a future,” I say, understanding that the future could be a very scary and uncertain place in Samantha’s mind, and so she may be avoiding that challenge. “Of course, I am,” Samantha says, as if it were obvious. “Of course, you say, but I was not sure you were in touch with that feeling,” I say, meaning it was not obvious to me she was aware of feeling that way. Samantha and I are on our way towards exploring her future fears. Her father, probably, has done her some good, by igniting the anxiety associated with paternal disapproval. Our journey has begun.