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imagining our tahiti

Posted Apr 14 2011 3:04am

You know what really helps when we're trying to import Tahiti?

Imagining. And not just imagining: imagining pleasant! (there's a difference!!!!)

We use our brain to create thoughts and images. Yeah, that probably sounds really obvious, right? I know. But here's the thing- often, the thoughts we have determine the feelings we have.

You guys soooo know what I mean. Here's just one example: you have a chemistry test tomorrow. A big one. You've studied. But you're freaked about it. You keep thinking it's not going to go well, telling yourself it's not going to go well. And each time you have that thought and say that statement to yourself your'e anxiety level increases.

There's a reason us clinicians sometimes try to get you away from those nasty, anxiety-ridden thoughts! Those thoughts create anxiety. And the more anxiety we feel, the more convinced we become that the thing we're worried about will totally happen.

It's a vicious cycle.

Here's another way that chemistry test scene could go: you have a chemistry test tomorrow. A big one. You've studied. You've done your homework related to the test. You've had 3 other tests in this class and each has been ok. You're freaked out that this one tomorrow won't be ok, and you're telling yourself to "be prepared" that it's going to "be a bad grade"... Wait a minute... instead of telling yourself that it's going to be a catastrophe, why not tell yourself something that "also can come true." Why not say, "it's just as likely to be ok as not." I mean, evidence has shown that it turns out fine in this chemistry class.

I can see eye rolling out there! I know it's hard to believe this can help. But it really can. 

Here's another example. I know someone who worries just incredibly that I won't show up for our meetings. She and I have trained her (through lots of practice) to substitute the statement, "Johanna's likely to show up tomorrow" for the one she used to say which was something like, "Johanna will probably die before tomorrow and not show up."

Each of those statements creates different emotions in us. By saying the "Johanna's probably going to die tonight" one, she was creating anxiety, unnecessary anxiety (anxiety that didn't have much of a basis in reality- odds are highly stacked against me dying- I mean, it's possible, but really, really unlikely). As she learned to replace the scary statement with a more neutral, evidence-based one (evidence-based because I had always shown up, each and every time) her anxiety decreased.

Somehow, we think that if we think the worst we'll somehow be "better prepared" to deal with it. It's not true, though. Thinking the worst (really, what we're doing is imagining the worst- making it up in our head) doesn't help us be prepared at all! All it does is wear us out, make us anxious and afraid... and, at it's worst, leave us paralyzed with fear. 

So, let's try substituting "scary" things we're imagining and saying to ourselves with "non-scary" things we're imagining and saying to ourselves.

It's not easy to get used to doing this. It definitely takes practice. It's sooooo worth practicing.

Here's our motto: Imagine Pleasant!


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