Living and Loving Better: Introduction
A few years ago, after the publication of our book, The Time Cure: Overcoming PTSD with the New Psychology of Time Perspective Therapy (Wiley, 2012), we were asked by the editors at Psychology Today to be contributors on their website and write a blog column. We happily accepted. At the time, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) was a hot topic in the media, in large part because our soldiers were returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan and as they integrated back into civilian life, it quickly became apparent many suffered from military-service connected PTSD. (PTSD is comprised of trauma, depression, anxiety, and stress.) About two-thirds of our clinical work was with people suffering from severe to extreme PTSD, many of them veterans. We had researched and conducted a study about the amazing effectiveness of Time Perspective Therapy, which was originally developed to help people overcome PTSD. We had also determined that Time Perspective Therapy was very effective for people suffering from depression, anxiety, stress, as well as the day-to-day problems we encounter throughout our lives.
At first, our Psychologytoday.com columns were geared toward educating people about PTSD and how Time Perspective Therapy could help. But in a relatively short time, we started receiving emails from readers searching for help in other areas, with problems totally unrelated to PTSD. As a general rule of thumb -- and this holds true in a myriad of cases such as the news media, commercial products, advertising, politics, and such -- if one person feels strongly enough to take the time to reach out and write about their problem or point of view, they probably represent a far greater number of people who, for whatever reason, don’t make contact. We responded individually to the personal emails, but we also felt we owed the silent majority they represented a response as well. So we branched out in our columns and explored how time perspectives -- especially skewed time perspectives -- affect our greater population in a variety of situations. And we felt that by introducing the easy, common sense approach of Time Perspective Therapy many more people could be helped.
We wrote about positive things as well as negative things and quickly discovered that the readership of the negative far outnumbered the positive. Why? Because people don’t need help with the positive things in life. They need help with the negative! As our column gained popularity, we thought, while an article can impart a lot of information, there was so much more to share on each subject. So we reviewed all the columns we had written as well as the comments -- many of which were enlightening and led to further research. We focused on the subjects that were the hot button topics for our readers, and these comprise the chapters and sub-chapters in this book.
In Living and Loving Better you’ll learn the basics of our therapy and how it can help solve problems and improve relationships. In a nutshell, Time Perspective Therapy is about checking our personal time perspectives -- whether or not we view the past, present, and future positively or negatively -- and if it’s negative, that by applying a dose of positivity, we gain a more balanced time perspective and therefore a more balanced life.
This simple method works particularly well when we get stuck in the past, especially if it was a negative experience. In Time Perspective Therapy, these recollections are considered past negatives. We might not realize that every day, these past negative memories can cast a shadow over the way we think, see, and feel right now, in the present, as well as how we view the future. Time Perspective Therapy is also helpful if we’re stuck in a present behavior we know is unhealthy, like present fatalism. A past negative experience can cause us to be present fatalistic and make us behave in ways we normally wouldn’t, or make us sad when we’re supposed to be happy.
When we are overshadowed by negative things that happened in the past, or current situations that seem overwhelming, it’s easy to drop the ball, to lose track of time and those with whom we were once close to. We think no one understands us, or has a more difficult life than we do. In Living and Loving Better, you’ll read stories of real people who have overcome tremendous past negatives and moved on to reconnect with loved ones and live productive, joyful lives. You’ll read about people in toxic relationships, people who are bullied, or shunned; and you’ll read about their triumphs. How did they do this? By focusing on past positives instead of past negatives and by becoming selectively present hedonists—all the while creating and working towards their brighter future positive. You can be one of them! All it requires is a better balanced, more optimal perspective on time in your life.
Living and Loving Better will provide you with the simple tools and real life examples that help you see the big picture of your life. It will help you let go and heal the past, appreciate and embrace the present, and create an ideal future – for you and your loved ones.
Phil Zimbardo & Rose Sword