Stop abusing your imagination with delusions of grandeur and delusions of disasterArts
“Letting go of old stories requires changing the perspective from which you view not only yourself, but also how you observe other people and the way the world operates in general.”
Margie Warrelle: Find Your Courage!
Imagination is the second cornerstone of Core Action Value #8, Vision, in our course on The Twelve Core Action Values. Imagination is a God-given gift which only we humans have been given: the ability to see things in our minds that are not (at least not yet) visible in the physical world. As Jonathan Swift said, vision is the art of seeing the invisible. Unfortunately, most of us tend to abuse our imaginations in two ways: fantasy and worry. Fantasy is imagining wonderful things happening to you without any effort on your part: winning the lottery or being discovered by Oprah are common themes. Worry is imagining something awful that you don’t want to happen; “awfulizing” about losing a job or losing one’s health are common themes.
Delusions of Grandeur (DoG): Fantasizing often takes the form of Delusions of Grandeur (if you’ve read the famous short story The Secret Life of Walter Mitty by James Thurber you’ll know what I’m talking about), the sort of magical thinking in which all of your dreams are realized and all of your problems are resolved without any real effort on your part.
Delusions of Disaster (DoD): Worry often takes the form of visualizing the worst possible outcome without recognizing the actions you can take to prevent that outcome from occurring (such as learning new skills to make yourself more valuable on the job or replacing donuts with pushups to prevent health problems).
A little bit of fantasy and a little bit of worry can be good things if they propel you to action, but they can be debilitating when they’re just mental churning that prevents you from thinking clearly and taking effective action. Making it worse, fantasy and worry are frequently below the level of conscious awareness, so you don’t even see the cognitive dead-ends into which you are being led. It’s harder than you would think to pull the plug on this sort of thinking because it’s human nature to let your mind wander down the path of least resistance – which is where fantasy and worry will take you, because just fantasizing or worrying about something is easy because there is no real work involved.
I’ve started a practice that is helping me stop wasting time and precious mental energy on Delusions of Grandeur and Delusions of Disaster. Whenever I catch my mind wandering into fantasy or worry (I have RBADD – Really Bad! – so this is a frequent occurrence), I identify the thought pattern and then say the word DoG or DoD. I actually say it out loud unless I’m in a place where blurting out DoG! or Dod! would be too embarrassing.
The simple act of giving that thought pattern a name is the first step in redirecting my thinking into a more construction direction. It helps me transform Delusions of Grandeur into thinking about the next steps I need to take in order to achieve important goals. It helps me transform Delusions of Disaster into a realistic assessment of my situation, and the next steps I should take to prevent whatever I’m worried about from happening.
Give it a try yourself. Pay attention to your own thinking, and whenever you start falling into fantasy or worry, label it as a delusion of grandeur or a delusion of disaster, and call it out with the word DoG or DoD and refocus your thinking on the actions you must take next in order to achieve your goals and prevent your worries from becoming your reality.