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It’s All In Your Head

Posted on February 15 2016

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When we are young, we are constantly encouraged to use our imagination. Most of us at some point in our childhood made up friends that only we could see. These friends came with very detailed backgrounds and stories. I remember owning a “clothing store” growing up. I was very meticulous about what came in and out of my store. I also perfectly cut up hundreds of pieces of paper to distribute to my family members. This was the money that would be spent at my store. To keep things interesting, I would make up challenging situations that occurred at the store. Maybe someone ran out of money while paying or a customer tried to steal from me. Let’s just say that there was never a boring moment chez Wemi.

“I’ve had a lot of worries in my life, most of which never happened.” Mark Twain

When you’re a child, drama is a given side effect of an active imagination. When you’re an adult however, too much drama is just a recipe for disaster. This past week, I was expecting a response on a project I’d been working very hard on. I expected to hear back by last Friday. For three days before that, I beat myself up over every possible response and outcome. I thought of every horrible thing that could go wrong. I also thought of the possibility of the great things that could from this project. I thought about all the work I’d put in and what it would mean if the answer was no.

Friday came and went. I put off checking my email for fear of what was waiting for me. Saturday came and I still hadn’t built up the courage to check. I finally peeked on Saturday evening and it turns out that my contact was out of town the entire time. There was no dreadful answer waiting for me. I felt so silly. All of that drama and anxiety for nothing.

“The primary cause of unhappiness is never the situation but your thoughts about it. Be aware of the thoughts you are thinking. Separate them from the situation, which is always neutral, which always is as it is. There is the situation or the fact, and here are my thoughts about it. Instead of making up stories, stay with the facts. For example, "I am ruined” is a story. It limits you and prevents you from taking effective action. “I have 50 cents left in my bank account” is a fact. Facing facts is always empowering.“ Eckhart Tolle

Facing facts is empowering and unless your profession requires it, making up stories about things that may or may not happen will not empower you. The mind is a powerful place. Beautiful things can come from this space of imagination but so can horrible things. Fears lurk behind our genius. We see their shadows and we assume that they’re bigger and more powerful than they actually are.

Sometimes, we can’t help but think the worst of a situation. Fear kicks in as our initial reaction and it just spirals out of control from there. A trick that I use is that instead of talking myself out of feeling bad and then feeling even worse for not being able to let go of those thoughts, I let myself sink into that worst case scenario for a few minutes. I say quietly to myself, if scenario A happens then B could happen. In spite of this, I will be okay. In that moment, I let go.

There will always be things that are out of our control; people who act and exist outside our field of influence. Accepting this as well as life’s moments as they come and as they are is the only way to end our suffering. If you’re going to make stuff up, use your powers for good and not evil.

Complimentary reading:

Is it time for a life edit and audit?

Happiness is a skill. Here’s how to master it.

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