Preview – Pathway One – Discovery
‘Imagination is everything, it is the preview of life‘s coming attractions.’Albert Einstein
Human beings are unique in the animal kingdom in their ability to imagine. When you close your eyes and imagine something your body and your senses will respond as if the event were really happening.
Even with your eyes open your imagination is powerful. Try this now:
Imagine you are in your kitchen. You walk over to your fridge, open the door and take out a lemon. You get a knife and cut a slice. Now take this slice of lemon and suck on it. Notice how your tongue tastes the bitter sensation.
Freud examined the idea of how imagination and reality can be blurred to such a degree that it may be difficult to identify the difference; he referred to this as ‘psychical-reality’ versus ‘factual reality’. He wrote, ‘What characterizes neurotics is that they prefer psychical to factual reality, and react just as seriously to thoughts as normal people do to realities.’ (Totem and Taboo).
When we allow ourselves, our imaginations can manufacture a world of fear as is commonly seen with people who suffer from anxiety. Fear is contagious and mass hysteria is an example of this: when one person panics, everyone else can pick up their fear. This is why airline staff are trained to remain calm in an emergency. The sad truth is that many people use the unique gift of imagination to conjure up all sorts of negative outcomes by catastrophizing. Many worries are simply imagined; this is not to say that people are without genuine and real concerns. Think of how often you may have worried about something that eventually was not as bad as you anticipated. For example, you had to deliver a speech at a wedding or public event and wasted many hours imagining that it would be a disaster. Ironically you performed much better than you had feared. Now imagine if you had invested those wasted hours and emotional energy into visualizing a positive outcome: the chances are that you would have delivered a brilliant performance and your physical and mental well-being would not have had to endure the strain of worry.
The only limit we have to contend with is our imagination, which is limitless. You can choose to use the power of your imagination to your full advantage and create your life the way you wish it to be. This is a skill that can be used on a daily basis. Many of us ruminate on things that did not go our way in the past or concern themselves with negative future projections. The subconscious soaks up these negative thoughts like a sponge and the negative neural pathways in our brains are constantly triggered. In neuroscience there is a phrase, ‘What wires together, fires together’.
We can go to bed at night and worry about how the next day will go badly or alternatively we can choose to imagine being calm, positive, patient and able to manage all of life‘s challenges. You will be amazed to see the results of this alternative world you have created in your mind slowly becoming a reality. Positive mental rehearsals work in the same way as negative ones, by repetition. This is not to suggest that using this technique is an overnight miracle cure but if you practise it persistently you will reap the rewards.
The question you need to ask yourself at this stage is what is the best image of yourself that you can imagine? What kind of personal world encapsulates your ideal? You create your own universe from the inside out and as Einstein suggested what you imagine now is what you will have in the future. If you start to imagine yourself and the world in a positive light when you can see yourself reaching your goals, feeling happy and loved, then slowly this will becomes your reality. You can develop the positive habit of imagining every day of your life playing out the way you desire. We shall look at this in more detail in Pathway Four, Happiness. For now, it is key to discover how you see yourself and your world.