The word of the day in UU Lent is imagination. Great, I thought, I already wrote a lot about this in my post about mind blindedness. I’m going to repeat a section from that post at the end of this one, because it explains a lot about my childhood and development.
My imagination has been my constant companion, sanity saver, and comfort zone my whole life. It’s almost as if I’ve lived in two worlds, the one I physically walk around in and the one in my imagination and dreams. Guess which one I prefer (even the weirdest of my weird dreams are at least fascinating!)?
Cautions – Too Much Imagination Can Be Damaging to Your Health
While using one’s imagination for temporary escapes from either too much stress or too little going on can be a good thing, I’ve sure seen a lot of times where too much imagination (or maybe it’s more like conjecture) can have some unpleasant consequences.
I used to have someone very close to me who had an issue with paranoia. He would experience something, and then use his vivid imagination to come up with consequences, motivations of others, and their effect on him. I can remember a two-hour conversation about how a higher-up didn’t say hello to him, which meant his entire career was in jeopardy, she had something against him…blah blah. I just kept repeating, “Maybe she was just thinking about her own shit.” I wasted many hours and much energy on this.
I didn’t hear from this guy for 20 years, so when Facebook showed up, we re-connected. He immediately launched into how his current employers were out to get him. I did not engage.
Or course, I’ve dealt with this kind of thing myself from time to time. Mostly it’s when someone suddenly drops out of my life, which happens to me periodically. I’ve spent way to much of my energy imagining possible things I said or did to offend people, or things that might have been going on with them that could have led to it.
Has any of that helped the situation even one little bit? Well, maybe, if I would have stuck to the imaginary scenarios where I’m a totally innocent victim of some huge misunderstanding and I’m better off without the person I formerly cared deeply about. But, no, I’ve spent way too much of my energy and time imagining less pro-Suna scenarios.
What’s helped is that I’ve been training myself to live with ambiguity. I’d rather have that than to find out the paranoid truth. I think I’d rather have not known why Edie and Leigh (two young women who lived with our family when they were having problems) both suddenly went off on me and told me everything I did was for selfish reasons, they’d never loved me, and they’d hated being in my family temporarily. Like my old friend, they were twisted in knots with things they came up with in their heads, and it made me sad. But in both cases, I just listened, knowing my actual motivations and that I loved them anyway. They weren’t interested in my perspective; they must have needed to make a break for their own reasons. I just moved on.
I hate dredging it all up, but I wanted to share how painful over-imagining things can be to others. I don’t want to do it.
So now, I’m okay not knowing what other people’s imaginations have interpreted my actions and motives to be. Everyone has their own perspective, and if anyone wants to talk to me about it, I’ll listen, but I won’t endure abuse. I’ll move on. And I am consciously refraining from imagining why others might be thinking or doing what they do. It’s not helpful to me, and I end up much more mentally healthy and with lots more time for all the things I enjoy.
From now going forward, I’m using my imagination to design dream homes, take mental trips to interesting places, conjure up a nation and world where differences are celebrated, and remember my departed loved ones.
Imagine all the people living life in peace.John Lennon
My Imagination and Me, from February 11
In case you were wondering about me, I’m one of the 2% on the extremely vivid mental imagery side. I’ve always been that way, so I never knew any different. My mom said as a toddler, I was always wandering around talking to a tree. When she asked why, I said I was talking to Jose, who lived up there. Where this little Anglo girl got that name is beyond me. So, either I was seeing fairies, or I had a vivid imagination. It’s all the same to me.
I had an imaginary gang of cartoon characters that went with me everywhere, too. My parents loved to tell the story of the time Mom shut the car door on Theodore of the singing chipmunks. I apparently didn’t take it well. I was also a Highly Sensitive Person, ha ha.
My whole life I played stories in my head. It helped pass the time, since I was not the most popular child, and certainly not the most popular during the early teen years! I had an entire life I lived during the time between going to bed and actually falling asleep. In this soap opera, I was strong, smart, and always said the right thing. What a nice world. I also had very cute boyfriends, especially the one from the comic books who was the smartest guy in the universe, and also green.
This internal life was very vivid and had touch and smell, as well as visual aspects. I now fall asleep without my “dreams,” for the most part. I think it lessened so dramatically when I started anti-anxiety medication. I will gladly exchange that loss for my mental clarity and ability to handle things more calmly.
I still can enjoy a little mental vacation by imagining things, like what’s going on in the towns I drive through, or what animals and plants may be perceiving. I find that fun. No wonder I’m not bored easily (if ever).
Is your imagination your friend or your enemy? Are you imaginative? Where do you go in your imagination?