When left to our own devices, we humans have the capacity to create ‘worst case scenarios’ that play around in our heads unchecked and often without boundaries. When this happens, it paralyzes us and prevents us from speaking up when someone hurts our feelings, springing into action on an exciting opportunity or doing what needs to be done to have more delightful moments in our lives.
The scarier part of all this is how fast our brains will lock into fear and prevent us from trying something less familiar.
When you were in middle school or early high school, you probably learned how the body works. And, at some time during those years, you learned about the adrenal glands. You know, those tiny little glands that secrete adrenaline, which is the ‘fight or flight’ hormone? (I’m always amazed that something so tiny can have such a huge impact on our lives!) When you are in a precarious or uncomfortable situation, adrenaline is the catalyst for your response – to stay and fight or get the heck out of there!
If you are a conflict avoider, that imagination of yours is likely working overtime. It is easy to imagine the worst and use it as an excuse for running away (or doing nothing) or (for non-conflict avoiders) picking a fight.
When faced with a state of conflict with yourself or someone else, take a second or two to consider what you want out of the relationship, action or decision. What if taking a different course of action actually helped the relationship – perhaps it will be a fabulously new strategy for challenging that over-active imagination of yours.
It’s time to take your mind off automatic pilot and get it to work for you rather than against you. Ask yourself questions, like:
- “What if” (make it a positive ‘what if) “I get a raise? How will I spend the money?”
- “If I could be my ideal weight, what would I look like, how would I feel, what would I be doing?”
- “If I could improve the conversations with my mother/spouse/colleague, how would that feel?”
- “If I could design my life the way I wanted it, how would I design it?”
Sure, the unknown may appear scary, but so is staying exactly where you are and feeling less than fulfilled. Life is meant to be lived full on. Some opportunities will work out and others won’t. Some relationships will improve and others will not. Some activities will bring you immense pleasure and others will fall short of expectation.
If you are going to let your imagination have room to play, wouldn’t it be a lot more fun to imagine a life filled with adventure and supportive relationships?
This is not as challenging as it might seem, as we are truly creatures of habit. Truth is, we all have the capacity to change our minds for the better!
Troy Media columnist Faith Wood is a novelist and professional speaker who focuses on helping groups and individuals navigate conflict, shift perceptions and improve communications.