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Anxiety: The Dark Side of Imagination

Mon, Nov 19, 2018 at 1:00AM

Imagination is typically associated with lighthearted creativity, learning, and play – but it has a darker side. The misuse of imagination can cause a whirlwind of thoughts and emotions that push away the present reality in favor of dreamt up scenarios and outcomes.

When I let my imagination run wild building the worst possible situations, I find that my emotions follow along as if it were actually happening. I can feel the change in my heart beat and in my breathing – these imaginations directly affect my body.

It’s a whirlwind of emotions that breeds a chaotic mental state. More often than not I get swept up into the fury of my thoughts and their associated emotions. I become completely worked up over trains of thought that have no true basis in reality!

If I spent equal time imagining both good and bad scenarios, this would be less of a problem. Yet it seems the bad scenarios have this almost addicting quality, as if I enjoy sustaining those terrible thought patterns. Perhaps this is because they are more exciting? Quite literally, they stir up deeper and more excitable feelings and emotions.

If I notice what is happening, I can take a few mental steps back and just breath. After counting 10 exhales, sometimes more, I am in a much calmer mental state. From that position I can reflect:

Why am I so deeply worried and nervous about this potential outcome?

Is it related to past experience? Am I holding on to a fear about something that happened to me?

Does that fear have any relation to the present? Or is it merely a projection?

What other types of scenarios might trigger this fear reaction? How can I notice when these thoughts and emotions are starting to form?

Taking these steps back is so crucial for me. I become the observer of the experience instead of the experiencer, one layer removed from the chaos.

Through my reflection I learn more about myself and develop a calmer state of mind. As I practice this skill I become less reactive and more present. I begin to flow with reality rather than become frozen and isolated in anxiety.

Do you find yourself falling into anxiety through the misuse of imagination? What helps you stay grounded or find the calm within the chaos? Please comment below if you’re willing to share.

 

About Me

I’m Ben! I’m a travel-obsessed abstract thinker here to help you extract the hidden lessons behind your day-to-day experience.

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