Like some powerful sorceress, I could at this very second put a million dollars in my pocket, become Cleopatra, or commit murder.
Of course, it would all take place only in my imagination.
As children the imagination is often something to which we are helplessly subject; the various “monsters in the closet” can be overwhelming images that rule our young minds at times.
Over the years it is helpful to discover that we can gain control of this powerful mental force, because it’s not just pretend. The “make-believe” in our heads can have a real impact in the world as we are influenced by the fears, hopes, dreams and fantasies that take root in our always fertile imaginations.
I’d like to share some of the tricks I’ve found to be useful and I hope that readers will share things they’ve learned as well. I know I have a long way to go to get the creative force in my head under some kind of control, and I welcome any ideas and experiences.
My techniques are based on the idea that if you focus on the positive then the negative will tend to wither and die; whatever you focus on gets energy and grows, like a nurtured child, while the thing you neglect will fail, like a plant without water.
This means that it is better to concentrate on the positive. I am in no way advocating rose-colored glasses or heads stuck in the sand. We cannot refuse to see things that must be changed or eliminated. I just mean that as we make those changes, we favor the “do” rather than the “don’t.”
I have a concrete example of how words and images can work for or against us in every day life: countless times I have seen a parent and child at the park and the child is doing some daredevil stunt while the parent yells, “Don’t fall!” In order to understand the word “fall” one has to picture falling. This is often enough to do the trick and the child falls. Contrarywise, yelling “Hold on!” involves a focus on remaining strong, encourages visualizing success. This seems trivial, but if we are in the habit of going through our daily lives admonishing ourselves not to screw things up, then our focus is on failure.
This worrying about what could go wrong is often so pervasive in my life that I lie in bed trying desperately to sleep while negative fantasies assault me from all sides. After such a struggle I often wake up with my neck and shoulders so tense it feels as if I never slept. It took me too many years to realize that my imagination is not ready to sleep, so it needs to be redirected. I will set my mind on imagining something like the funnest vacation spot, letting my mind labor happily over every wonderful detail, which, though it is just much work as imagining what horrible scenarios might transpire at the dentist tomorrow, will give me a positive emotional rush rather than a negative one. I end up much more relaxed in the morning.
Another trick I use is when the world seems overwhelming and I can’t believe the horrible state of my life. I imagine myself on a mountaintop, literally above it all, and get the big picture. I can see where I’ve been, and how much worse my problems used to be, I can see all the joys in my life and how I couldn’t even see them when I was mired in a couple of small problems, which looked huge from close up but from the mountaintop, I feel kind of silly to have pitched such a fit.
Admittedly this visualization won’t have the same effect if a person does have a serious issue going on in life, but it can help even then by letting the person see resources or friends that could help that they hadn’t even thought of, or to see that the rest of the world is still there and so there is hope that things will be okay in the future. The point is, whether a person is hysterical over trivial worries or genuinely despondant over a large crisis, a look at the big picture can shift one’s perspective in a positive way, and sometimes actually visualizing myself at a vantage point from which to overlook the big picture can facilitate this process.
Lastly, I find that I have to monitor my self-image. Sometimes in the middle of a really crappy day when I feel like throwing in the towel I begin to realize that I have been operating with a self-image that makes me sick when I actually turn to look it in the face: an ugly, incompetent, mean person with an enormous chip on her shoulder. How is the day supposed to go well under those conditions? I admit that I cannot magically make everything turn on its head and go my way just by cleaning up the mirror in my head, but it sure makes me feel more hopeful and more loved. And that alone can make the day easier.
I think we as adults tend to dismiss imagination as belonging the realm of children and Hollywood, as insignificant and irrelevant to our lives, without realizing the power it has in our own heads. I would like to stop being a victim of my own mental creativity and instead use it to my advantage. I am very interested in hearing from others who feel the same.