I've been experimenting with thoughts lately and I've come across a process that has been helpful to me. I wanted to share it, in case it is helpful for you as well.
What I want to talk about today is a kind of exercise in imagination where I practice visualizing what I want for my future and every time I start to think "I can't" or "it's impossible" or "that will never, happen" I say to myself, "Okay, Maybe it I can't or it's impossible or will never happen... But WHAT IF..." and then I let myself continue to imagine.
I don't have to stop the doubting commentary. It is real and valid so I can acknowledge it, but I can also look beyond it.
"You are right," I can say to myself, "This might not ever be true, but what if it were? Let me just imagine it for a few minutes, IF it were real what would it feel like? What would I do? How would I get there?"
It's something I started doing about 8 or 9 months ago without realizing I was doing it. I was listening to a guided mediation that talked about visualizing your future. I listened for a couple weeks and then forgot about it, but then I would remember it again off and on and sit an think: What do I want? What if it were possible?
"I could never live like that because I have schizophrenia," I would say, or... "Because I'm not good enough, because I'm not capable, because I don't deserve it, I'm too scared, I don't have the resources, I don't know how to get there.. etc. Etc."
For every dream I had about my future there were fifty valid reasons it would never work out. So why bother?
"Because" I answered, or maybe it was the voiceless-voice that told me, "What IF it could work? What if in spite of all those reasons it did come true? Could I even imagine that? What if I tried?"
It was nice to think about. It was comforting to bask in the idea of dreams coming true for a little while, but it didn't seem all the practical at first. It was good to help me when I was feeling down, and I decided that was enough of a reason to keep using in periodically.
But then, it changed...
What you practice and put focused energy into starts to form into a habit and if you do it enough you start turning to it with less thought. It's like learning to fall correctly. At first its kind of weird and scary not to put your arms out and brace yourself, but you practice it enough and when you actually take a tumble (say off the rock-climbing wall) you automatically tuck your arms in, relax, and land without injury.
So things in my life that used to really trip me up would come up (because that's life) and after practicing imagining with 'what if's,' I would automatically look at the situations and say, "But what if it wasn't so bad? What if I didn't have to be terrified? What if I didn't mess this up?"
Then I would imagine the situation in a new way and the terrifying daily events became less terrifying because I started to realize that the 'What if' wasn't only a thought experiment anymore, it was an actual experiment.
"What if I was brave enough to reach out to this organization and ask if they would be interested in hearing about what I wrote?"
They might not answer. They might say no thanks. They might say, "yes please share."
What if I started to speak up about what was going on instead of assuming everyone was out to get me?
What if I could go to the grocery store and not turn it into a catastrophe?
What if I asked for information about art school?
What if I applied?
What if I made an actual, full effort towards what I wanted instead of assuming that it would always be out of reach?
What if I was braver? Stronger? Kinder? Smarter than I allowed myself to believe I could be?
What if my mental illness didn't define me? What if my past didn't define me either?
What if I actually believed the people who believed in me?
What if I could see life as something to enjoy instead of dread? What if...
In summary, I'm not some massively successful person. Most people looking in on my life would probably say "no thank you" to wanting to live like I do, and that's okay. But learning to let "what if" into my imagination has helped me to do things that last year I swore were impossible (or only possible with a great amount of pain).
I am happy where I am. I don't know what the future will bring. I don't know if I'll be successful or if my dreams will come true, but I feel happy now. I feel like it's possible now.
I'll have to work for it, but the work doesn't have to be torture and while I work I can dream.
So what if my dreams never come true? What if nothing concrete comes from this way of thinking?
Well then at least I got to enjoy the process of working towards something that mattered to me. At least I had the chance to experience life as happy and myself as capable. Really, what else can I want?
Thank you for reading. Have a great day and don't forget to take some time to dream ^_^