Indeed, for me this seems to be the central source of suffering.Yes, the thoughts about future come with fear and suffering.
Right now the future is just a set of thoughts. It consists of some images and words, a mental movie inside me, not truly me inside it.Where is future now? Where is that image?
This mental movie appears taken from “my” viewpoint (so I do not appear as an object in it, but as the subject) but there is imagined pain there. It is like a nightmare depicting some misfortune and pain, or continuation of current pain. For example, it might depict members of my family very plausibly being harmed "in front of me", or it might merely depict some endless annoying chore that I am looking at to be done. Then other thoughts arise saying “this movie is a warning even if it isn't happening yet, keep seeking a way to avoid this fate”.What do you see in the image?
In a nightmare, is it me that is experiencing it? In reality there is no separate entity “me”, and in the nightmare the same is true. But there is a nightmare projection, and there is a discomfort that accompanies it. The thought of a lime in your mouth tomorrow is not the same as a real lime in your mouth now, but just the thought is enough to make your mouth water right now.Is that image you?
When there is no fear, the future acts as a thought-map to help navigate my behavior NOW. It seems like this map is useful, as long as it is not mistaken for reality itself. In these situations, there is sensible planning NOW "for the future". It does not create suffering.Is thinking about future helping? If so, in which way? What does thinking about future solve? What do you get from that?
But when the future-thoughts depict pain and discomfort, it triggers a resistance (at least in me), and there is a desperate hunt to escape. This process is often repetitive, it IS suffering, and it's pointless. I get nothing from it. But I have no control of these thoughts/feelings. And the thoughts are seductive. For example, in my life there are some periodically deeply painful experiences, for various reasons. It is the psychological equivalent of electric shocks. Thoughts arise warning me that tomorrow will have more such shocks, in unpredictable variations. Thoughts arise to try to escape. They try and try, but there is no escape. But maybe tomorrow the escape will be discovered, if I just think hard enough! And so it goes on chewing away, never knowing when to stop and surrender to whatever is coming.
Having said all this, I am experimenting more and more with the only way I can see to deal with all the above considerations, namely to focus as best I can on the present moment and just feel the present pain AND the present peace that co-exists with that pain by complete acceptance. If future thoughts arise and there is an obvious move to make, then I make it. If future thoughts arise just to scare me, without any obvious action that can be taken, I try as best I can to say "sorry, you are not real (yet), I don't have space to take you seriously until you come to pass in the present moment, and then I will give you my full attention and acceptance". Of course, this does not always work perfectly, so all I can do is follow the approach of "least resistance", even if I cannot drop all resistance, accepting the resulting suffering.
But if you sense that I'm missing something, please let me know.