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When working on your mental health, it's essential that you follow what I call the "push-pull method."

(1) You must be pushed forward by fear of how bad things have been or how bad they can be.

(2) You must also be pulled forward by a vision for the future that inspires you.

It's not enough to focus exclusively on either the dreariness of the past or an inspiring vision of the future. Although focusing on one of those alone may lead to some amount of healing and transformation, it's not the optimal approach to changing your life.

The presence of both push and pull (fear and inspiration) compounds to generate even more momentum toward a life that is more healing, healthy, and fulfilling. And there is scientific evidence in support of this theory (at least when applied to rats).

Watch this brief video from Jordan Peterson as he explains the experiments and scientific literature that support this theory (at least in rats, and me).

When in crisis, it absolutely makes sense to first focus on stabilizing yourself. Get out of crisis first. In my experience, achieving stabilization was followed by mostly looking backward at my trauma in order to understand how I got to a point of crisis.

Once I was able to work through the trauma, it was important to then start looking forward as the architect of an inspiring vision for life. The initial "push" work of looking back at the things I was afraid of, and traumatized by, was then coupled with "pull" work.

Making the transition from push/fear to pull/inspiration is a game-changing moment in the psychotherapeutic process. However, it's important to hold on to the fear, even when moving along nicely toward your inspiration. Don't forget it.

So, think of this next time you're contemplating where you're at in your healing journey. Assess if you're imbalanced. Focusing too much on the painful past can lead to identification with the pain and trauma where one's sense of identity is defined TOO MUCH by it. You're stuck.

Similarly, if you've had trauma, total identification with an inspiring vision of your future is a temporary measure to avoid the pain that will eventually manifest itself in your health, thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. The trauma influences from under the surface.

Stay balanced, my friends. A little bit of push, and a little bit of pull.