You must pre-live the future, not re-live the past
Stan is twenty-three, a university graduate, and employed by a reputable firm. His high school ‘romance’ fizzled out while he was going to the university. In his senior year, he met someone else, and soon they become a couple. Recently, however, his girlfriend ended the relationship. Stan feels devastated. He can’t get her out of his mind and finds it difficult to concentrate while at work. He wrote asking for suggestions on how to get over her and get on with life. I welcome Stan’s questions because it provides an opportunity to share with all readers a powerful psychological tool known as Therapeutic IMAGERY.
MY ANSWER TO STAN
Stan, our imagination can be a powerful ally or ruthless dictator. It can help us reach our goals or hinder our progress. Right now, it is not the loss of your girlfriend that is causing so much pain, but your imagination that is running through WHAT IF scenarios. That is, you mind is filled with thoughts such as, “My first relationship failed. My second relationship failed. WHAT IF I cannot find another girlfriend? What if I remain alone all my life?”
You can easily prove to yourself that what I say is true. Pretend for a moment that ten women in your workplace found out that you are available, and all are eagerly waiting for the opportunity to date you. Now how do you feel? Don’t you feel relieved? This exemplifies how we can use our imagination to help us move forward.
So, my advice to you is simply, stop using your imagination to hold you back, and start using it to set you free. More specifically, I’m going to give you seven IMAGERY exercises to practice. Do one exercise per day, twice a day. Practice each exercise for at least ten minutes per session (two sessions per day). To do these exercises, sit or lie down. After closing you eyes, spend at least five minutes taking deep, slow breaths while relaxing all the muscles in your body. Then start the exercise. Each day there is a different situation for you to visualize. The exercises are designed to awaken insights and solutions. They are designed to help you help yourself. Do not underestimate their power, for they have the potential to unlock the prison you have placed yourself in.
DAY 1. Imagine there are countless women who would be happy to meet you if they were given the chance. By the way, this is not a wild dream, but the plain truth. Whenever you are in the workplace, subway, coffee shop, library, mall, grocery store, fitness club, park, or other place, there are women who would be happy to meet you. Yet, this truth cannot help you if you are unaware of it. So, start practicing today by seeing the opportunities that surround you. Begin by practicing in your mind’s eye (imagination). While going about your daily activities in your imagination, look for chances to meet interesting women. Besides helping you become aware of the opportunities that await you, this exercise should bring some relief.
DAY 2. Since losing your girlfriend, you tend to dwell on what you liked about her while forgetting her faults. So, in this exercise, pretend you did not break up. On the contrary, imagine spending all your life with her. Study the situation carefully. Imagine doing everything together. How would you feel about the relationship in five years? Considering the high divorce rate, does your relationship have what it takes to survive? Think things over carefully. After doing so, you will probably gain valuable insights and arrive at surprising conclusions.
DAY 3. Imagine being at a family gathering. Your older sister is speaking to you, “Stan, Erica worries me. Something is troubling her, but she won’t speak to me about it. You know how much she likes and trusts you, so please speak to her.”
You decide to speak to your thirteen-year-old niece, Erica. As she struggles to speak, tears well in her blue eyes and dribble down her cheeks, getting lost in a maze of freckles. You find out she’s brokenhearted because her boyfriend broke up with her. Being older and wiser, you try to comfort her by offering sound advice. See yourself giving her advice.
What would you say? Perhaps you would remind her that finding one’s life mate is not an event, but a process. That is, you don’t marry the first person you meet, but get to know many people over several years, gradually building experience while gaining wisdom. After doing so, you will eventually meet your life partner. There are probably many other things you wish to say to Erica. I don’t want to put words into your mouth, so, form your own thoughts, offering her all the advice you can.
DAY 4. Project yourself ten years into the future. How will you feel about today’s problem in ten years? Won’t it appear as just a blip in your life? Also, since the average male reaches emotional maturity at about age thirty, in ten years, you will be much wiser. In your imagination become your older, wiser self, then return to the present and give your best advice to your twenty-three-year-old self.
DAY 5. Your emotional pain has caused you to forget about life’s ordinary pleasures. What hobbies or interests do you have that were not shared by your girlfriend? Was it chess, photography, swimming, reading, music, writing, cooking, traveling, bodybuilding, dancing, tennis, or rollerblading? After listing your interests, picture yourself engaging in those activities. You can end much of the pain you feel by focusing on the pleasures that await you.
DAY 6. Make a list of your great successes. For example, you graduated the university and landed a job with a great organization. Did you win any contests, trophies, awards, or medals? What are your great achievements? Relive those memories in your imagination. This exercise will remind you of the power you already possess and reveal that you have the inner strength to get over your temporary heartache.
DAY 7. Take greater control over your life by considering the kind of women you wish to meet. What type interest you most? Bright? Articulate? Outgoing? Charming? Hardworking? Family-oriented? Witty? Spiritual? Practical? Generous? Physically fit?
List the attributes that attract you most. Then boil down the list to four or five essential attributes. Next, using your imagination, create the ideal woman for you. Then ask yourself what type of man would that woman want to meet. In your imagination become the man she wants to meet. Compare where you are today with where you want to be. Then keep taking steps until you reach your goal. Once you do, you will automatically attract the women of your dreams. Simple, isn’t it?
Well, Stan, don’t give your imagination free rein. Don’t allow it to control you. Rather, control it and exploit its power by practicing Imagery. Remember, Stan, it takes no more imagination to create a happy life than it takes to create a miserable one. So, take charge of your life today by focusing on what you want from life, instead of dredging up past failures. In other words, you must pre-live the future, not re-live the past.
If you are new to Imagery and want to learn more, the following is a must-read: IN THE MIND’S EYE, The Power of Imagery for Personal Enrichment, by Arnold Lazarus, PhD, The Guilford Press, 1984.
Another excellent book is: THE SELF-WORTH ODYSSEY, An Imagery-Enhanced Journey to Success and Fulfillment, by Gordon Cochrane, PhD, Devon Productions, Vancouver, B.C., Canada (1-604-730-8858). Both books are highly readable, practical, and available from Amazon.com.