Anytime you are fixated, immobilized, absorbed in, or even overly concerned with something that is over – whether it happened this morning or ten years ago – constitutes reverse gear.
The reason people find it so difficult to get out of reverse gear is that they can so easily justify being there. In other words, they argue for their “right” to be in reverse by saying things like, “But he did sabotage the deal,” or “She did criticize me in public.” People will use the fact that events actually took place as evidence to support their anger and frustration. What they usually fail to see, however, is that right now, in this moment, the event they are frustrated about is over. The only factor keeping it alive is their memory, their own thinking.
Obviously, it’s important to learn from our past, from our mistakes. I can assure you; however, that being in reverse gear will not help you do so. To learn from our past experiences, it’s helpful to gently reflect on the way we have done things. Reverse gear isn’t gentle. In fact, it’s harsh. The way out of reverse is to notice how it feels to be in reverse.
If you can observe yourself – your mind, your thoughts, your attention – focused on past events, or past frustrations, you can gently bring your attention back to the present. Training your mind to stay out of reverse can be a little like training a puppy to stay at your side. The puppy will stay for a minute, and then dart away. Your mind is like that, too. It can stay focused for a minute or two, then dart backward to an annoyance from this morning or a frustration from yesterday. The most effective way to train your puppy is to gently lead him back to your side. The same approach works with your mind as well. As you notice your thoughts drifting backward, remind yourself that the past is over and done with. Then, gently and easily, guide yourself back to the here and now. All it takes is a little patience and some practice. Pretty soon, your tendency to be in reverse gear will be a part of your past.