I was sitting over by myself in the high school auditorium when a strangely familiar older man appeared out of nowhere and sat down right beside me.
“It is going to be all right,” he said.
“Who the hell are you?” I replied.
I was not in a good mood. I was greatly relieved, yes, but not in a good mood. I had just had a talk with the vice principal of the high school. He said he would take care of my problem.
My problem was that I had been approached in a hallway, by one of the most attractive young women in my class. She stared me down and told me that I was definitely not in her social class. She told me I had better do something about it.
Her problem was that some of my friends thought I had a good sense of humor. They thought it would be funny to nominate me for homecoming king. I had made the list of finalists. Buzz around the school was growing. A coalition was forming. I had peers that thought having a homecoming king, who was shy and not cool would be hysterical. I had people who I thought were my friends already finding my situation to be a laugh riot. What I didn’t anticipate was support from acquaintances who would like to riot against the homecoming tradition itself. Things were reaching a critical mass. Wendy was getting pissed. She knew she had the looks and the style to win the crown and didn’t want her king to be a frog.
While the vice principal let me know that he had control over the election and had my back, I was left sitting on my ass thinking about how crummy it was to be me. That is until this oddly familiar strange old dude came along.
“I am you,” he said, “and you are going to be just fine.”
He pointed out some facial features of his and mentioned some locations of some moles that normally don’t see the light of day.
There was only one explanation. This guy was an older version of me.
“I don’t mind telling you that you will not go on a single date in your high school years, because I’m telling you, you are not going to believe who you will hook up with when you go away to college. It is going to be fantastic!”
I just smiled, the nicest smile I had smiled in a long time. This character was downright believable, because it was me. It really was me.
The only way this was possible was because the older me had gone to a guided imagery workshop to learn a technique for helping individuals with post traumatic stress. As you have guessed, the younger me, meeting the older me was imaginary. The satisfaction of this encounter was very real, however.
I have been blessed to date to have never experienced post traumatic stress symptoms. Nothing really awful has happened to me yet.
Unpleasant memories can be unpleasant just the same. If you think of them the wrong way, you can needlessly rob yourself of having had a great life. You can stop yourself from, why-does-this-crap-always-happen-to-me-negative-thinking syndrome.
This technique can remind you that good stuff is rooted in bad stuff. If you’re, into Buddhism you may already believe that this is the way the universe works. All good stuff needs bad stuff to grow in, which makes all stuff good.
Now, if you are bothered by trauma or get upset by imagery, please stop reading here. You don’t want to play around with this stuff without the guidance of a qualified therapist.
If you are still reading, pick some situation that went down in the past that sucked, but one you are now fine with. Since you are reading this because of the Good Men Project, I invite you to pick a time when you were confronted by an issue that bothered you as a man. Once upon a time, not having the courage to socialize well with young women my age, is an example of a common men’s issue. If you are a women reading this, you might want to pick a difficult situation that you had once experienced with a man— a situation where something good came out of it.
Now, picture yourself when you were either in pre-suck or mid-suck mode. What do you remember about what you looked like, what you might have been wearing, the tone of your voice, your surroundings, what you used to like to do for fun when things weren’t sucking?
For my imaginary trip back to my old high school, I pictured what my school’s sports mascot looked like. In case you want to know, it was a man with a scraggly beard who held a rifle in one hand and a jug of moonshine in the other. The reason why this symbol of violence, ignorance and intoxication was chosen to represent my school was due to the original high school building being on a hill. I went to the new high school building that was built on flat land and felt proud to be a “Hillbilly.” To date, I am not aware of anybody being offended by any suggestion that white men are prone to drunkenness, gun violence and ignorance that could be implied by my school’s symbol. (I have decided not to call for change until all mascots named after classes more oppressed than white men are retired).
You don’t need vivid images of how you once were for this exercise. If your brain doesn’t offer up any images you can still have a good talk.
When, in your imagination, the you of today first encounters the younger you, don’t be surprised if the younger you is a bit startled at first. If you point out the resemblance they will quickly get it.
You can keep it simple or play with it as much as you want. The simple message to your younger self is that you know they are feeling bad about something, but they should know that the problem is going to go away and something unexpectedly great is going to happen.
I sometimes have fun doing this with my younger self of a few hours ago.
You don’t need to get put off by not wanting your younger self to know about bad stuff that is going to happen. Just don’t tell them.
Before I wrote this, I visited my not-so-younger self pre-Parkinson’s diagnosis. Then, I visited my even less younger self to explain what good was going to come out of the disease that would force me to stop working.
This self was wide-eyed at the thought I would discover I could occupy my time by writing for the Good Men Project. My younger self had a hard time believing the parts of my brain not working as well as they used to, would contribute to the part of my brain that writes—working better than ever. The contributing edits to my writing from the Good Men Project editors can be our little secret.
I don’t tell my imaginary younger self all the stuff about Parkinson’s disease that isn’t so good. My younger self will just have to wait until unexpectedly, good things will arise out of the latest bad news.
Don’t be surprised if you find this exercise unexpectedly satisfying. Conversations with yourself often are.
If you talk out loud and somebody looks at you with a concerned look, just pretend you are talking on a cell phone. It is none of their business who you are talking to.
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