Are You Using Your Imagination Or Is It Using You?
Remember when you were a kid and you used to let your imagination run wild? Anything you could conceive of would instantly come to life: monsters in the closet, made-up languages, and of course, imaginary friends. One needs only to spend a short while in the company of a child to see the imagination at work. I was hangin’ out with my 3 year-old nephew recently, painting, and he put down a blotch of green on the page and said: “Look, it’s a frog!” We all have this ability to look at something and create our own interpretation of what is. As adults, the power of our imagination is still very much intact, however, rather than put it to good use, we tend to let our imagination use us. I have been learning a lot lately about how this force is at work in my life and I’d like to share.
The pattern goes like this. It starts with an attachment to a particular outcome or way things should be, then a person or event outside of my control threatens that view. This, in turn, triggers a feeling of insecurity in me; and I react in one of a few different ways that only serve to feed the insecurity. A very simple example of this is when people don’t get back to me. The attachment at play is the belief that people should respond to e-mails, voice messages, texts, etc. promptly and if they don’t then something is wrong. So whether it’s a friend, a business contact or a love interest, if I reach out to someone, there comes at point at which, if I don’t hear back, something gets triggered in me. My mind starts to wonder and wander to negative places. If the silence keeps up for a long time, my imagination kicks it up a notch and starts coming up with all kinds of stories as to why the person isn’t responding to me.
At this point, it’s worth noting that the only thing that has actually happened is that I’ve reached out to someone and not heard back yet. Maybe it’s been a few days, or even a week. Maybe it’s only been an hour. Regardless, what is of interest is that given all of the possible interpretations I can choose, I often pick ones that are disempowering, that bring me down and that ultimately, confirm the feeling of insecurity that’s at play. “Maybe they are ignoring me. Maybe I did something to upset them. Maybe they have bad news for me. Maybe they don’t really like me. Maybe I should give up.“ As ridiculous as these sound to me as I’m writing them, when I am caught up in a reaction and these thoughts are going through my head, it’s easy to be fooled and identify with them.
What I’ve discovered is that underneath all of these disempowering interpretations of a seemingly trivial event, there is the recurring insecurity that I’m not good enough. I am thankful to be at a place in my life where I can say with confidence that I don’t believe that to be true. I have done a good amount of work to see where that perception stems from and I’ve committed to affirming a positive and loving view of myself.
Despite this conscious effort on my part, these old, bad habits are persistent and can sometimes sneak up on me. I’ve learned to catch them by the presence of certain signs or red flags that let me know I’m caught in a reaction. If I’m being defensive, trying to prove myself, people pleasing, being critical of another, or acting with an “I’ll show them” attitude, then I know that I’m compensating for an insecurity that has been triggered. At this point, I can choose to take a step back, breathe, meditate, pray, go for a walk, exercise, or do anything that can ground me and break the chain reaction that is unfolding. Sometimes, the appearance of this pattern can be a mere symptom of pent up creative energy. In this case, similarly, the solution lies in putting that energy to good use by strumming away, going to the canvas, writing, creating, etc.
The other critical choice is the one we get to make when faced with the triggering event in the first place. In that moment, we can look at the straight facts and choose a loving interpretation, one that empowers us and makes us feel good. Going back to my earlier example, that could be something like: “I’m sure they’re just busy with work. Maybe they haven’t received the message. They’re going to call with great news any minute. They probably forgot to get back to me so I’ll try again. All is well.”
At the very core, the choice I am talking about is the choice between love and fear, between faith and doubt, between abundance and scarcity. Ultimately, we are the ones who create our experience of ourselves, of people and of the Uni-verse with our thoughts and beliefs. If we believe that we’re not good enough or that there’s not enough love to go around, that will shape our experience and our dealings with others will reflect that belief back to us. If on the other hand we use our imagination and creative power with positive intent, the possibilities are endless. This is how dreams come to life, how timeless art is created, how amazing bonds are formed and how lasting peace and joy become available.
So as an experiment for the next week, be conscious of your perceptions and interpretive choices. Use your imagination to view yourself, others and life’s unfoldings with an interpretation guided by love, faith and abundance and see what happens. If it doesn’t work out, you’ll be no worse off than when you started. If it works, you will have gained the whole world. Imagine it and then experience it!
Written for The Daily Love (Aug. 13th, 2011)