Do you remember the 1970s hit by The Temptations, "Just My Imagination"? The refrain goes: "It was just my imagination running away with me". And this morning as I was reflecting on certain events in my life and also friends' lives, I realized that a lot of times we create problems in our head... but it's just our imagination running away with us.
Example? OK, let's say that you call a friend and leave a voice mail asking them to call you back. And they don't. OK, here's where your imagination kicks in, right? You start imagining why your friend didn't call back.
Run, Imagination, Run!
If you're a "worst case scenario" type of individual, you might assume they're dead, but if you're paranoid, insecure, or have low self-esteem, your mind will jump to thoughts like: "She must be angry with me for some reason", or "I must have done or said something wrong", "She doesn't like me anymore" or "She must have some other friends that she likes better", etc. etc. And if the person in question is your lover, then your imagination may even run to assumptions of infidelity.
Now of course, the only thing you know for sure is that your friend has not called you back. However, it could be for many reasons other than what your mind is imagining. Maybe she didn't get your message, maybe she's been so busy she didn't have an extra minute to call, or maybe she's away and in an area that has no cell phone coverage (yes those areas still do exist).
You get my point? You may be working yourself up into a frenzy, imagining all the negative reasons she didn't call you back, when the reality is very different to where your imagination is taking you.
Assuming Negative Scenarios?
In the same way, maybe you're out shopping and you see someone you know in the distance and you wave to them... and oh no! they don't wave back. You immediately assume you're being snubbed, that they don't want to talk to you, that they don't like you, etc. etc.
How about, instead of assuming all these negative scenarios, choosing instead to imagine that they were just looking at something else in your general direction and didn't see you. Since you don't know the truth of the situation, why imagine one that is hurtful to you? Why not imagine one which is neutral or even possibly beneficial?
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In the novel "Stranger in a Strange Land", Jubal asks Anne (who is a Fair Witness, i.e. one who only attests to what they see) the color of the house across the street. She responds that it's white "on this side". Now most of us would say the house is white. Yet all we really know is that the side we're looking at is white, but we assume that the rest of the house is the same color. And the same goes with events in our life. Anything else other than what we actually see is our imagination creating scenarios to explain what we saw.
Telling Yourself Tall Tales?
There are so many instances where we let our imagination run away with us. You develop a bump on your skin for no apparent reason and your mind starts with all the doomsday scenarios... skin cancer, tumor, or some other nefarious illness. You have an ache in your knee or your hip and immediately you start thinking you're going to need surgery. You have some other persistent problem (physical or emotional) and jump to assuming the worst case scenario.
I am a firm believer in self-fulfilling prophecies. In the same way that a child who is raised being told they're stupid or ugly or no good has a good chance of growing up with those beliefs ingrained in their psyche, when we are the ones telling ourselves "tall tales", we also start believing they're the truth.
Imagination! It's A Powerful Tool!
Imagination is a powerful tool. If we're going to imagine something is happening to us (and we are always imagining when we don't have the facts, and sometimes even then), let's imagine something good and loving and positive. Why purposefully imagine that someone is doing something that saddens and depresses us? Why choose negative outcomes in our imagination when we could just as easily choose positive ones?
You say that wouldn't be realistic? But who knows? You're just imagining all those things running around in your head, right? So who knows what's real until it actually happens or until someone confirms that it's true? And if you imagine the positive, at least in the meantime you won't have been morose and depressed because of something that only exists in your head.
We're the ones choosing our thoughts after all, or at least choosing to dwell on them and accept them as truth. How about painting a different scenario in your head, one where you assume the best instead of the worst. One where you imagine a happy and loving cause and ending, instead of hurtful and painful ones?
Arguing for Limitations
Richard Bach, in his book Illusions says "argue for your limitations, and they are yours". The more you defend (argue for) or strengthen your belief in a negative aspect of yourself, or an imagined outcome, the more you'll believe it. (If you haven’t read the book “Illusions”., I strongly encourage you to do so. It's one of my long-time favorite books. If you have read it, rereading provides great ah-ha moments.)
Have you ever noticed yourself defending your limitations? An example of a limitation is “I’m too tired to...” and then of course, the more we insist we’re “too tired” (or too old, or too busy, or too sick, or not smart enough, or not qualified enough, or whatever...) the more we become that which we are affirming.... too tired, etc.
We would be better served asking ourselves what we need to do to get past that limitation (or imagined limitation). In the case of feeling "too tired", perhaps a bit of fresh air is needed, a glass of water, a short (or long) walk, finding something to laugh about, or... (let your intuition kick-in and your imagination run wild with what you need to do to step out of your current limitations).
Start imagining what you'd be doing if you didn't have those limitations and then put in practice whatever you can. We limit ourselves with our own thoughts, beliefs, imagined restrictions. It's all in our head! Well at least a lot of it is, and even when there is a physical challenge, we often make it worse by imagining ourselves limited and handicapped by whatever is going on in our body.
Imagine What You Wish
In the mornings when I wake up not feeling "at my best", I ask myself what I can do to turn that around. Of course, I could just complain about how my back hurts, and the fact that I'm getting older, etc. etc., or I can say, OK, what can I do to turn this around. And let my imagination come up with ways to create a different reality for myself rather than starting down the road of "that's just the way it is".
We are powerful beyond measure, and as Marianne Williamson so aptly said "We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us." Consequently, we are not here to imagine ourselves as weak and powerless. We can manifest the "glory of God within us" and last time I checked, God did not suffer from arthritis and need to have surgery for this and that.
Let's not buy into the imaginations of the medical profession, the pharmaceutical industry, the fear-mongers, and the advertising industry that prey on our low self-esteem and fears. Let's instead use our own imagination to strengthen ourselves and our life and be a radiant expression of life.
Remember, it's just your imagination running away with you... But at least, you can choose where you let it run to, or if you find it running in a direction with is not supportive of your bliss and well-being, call it back and start it going in another direction.
About The Author
Marie T. Russell is the founder of InnerSelf Magazine (founded 1985). She also produced and hosted a weekly South Florida radio broadcast, Inner Power, from 1992-1995 which focused on themes such as self-esteem, personal growth, and well-being. Her articles focus on transformation and reconnecting with our own inner source of joy and creativity.
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