When Imaginations Run Wild

Imagination is a powerful ability we all possess—just ask Spongebob Squarepants or Barney the Dinosaur. With it, we can accomplish many things, such as creative works for entertainment as well as the construction of buildings and landmarks of any sort. Let’s face it, our infrastructure and all the modern conveniences we rely on every day wouldn’t exist without somebody making extraordinary use of their imagination.

As I discussed in “Imagination for Self-Preservation,” it can also help us mentally…but only when we use it to our advantage. Yes, it can be all too easy to envision what might go wrong rather than what might go right. Like I shared then, I’d fallen into that trap and justified it as guarding myself from disappointment.

In an ironic twist, the pandemic took over the world just days after I published that post, a scenario I—along with most people—couldn’t have dreamed up. We all faced unprecedented challenges, which didn’t foster optimism and has left a mark on many even three years later. Because of that, it’s easier than ever to picture worst-case scenarios and to live your life in fear. How do we escape that pitfall and redirect our imagination to boost our spirits instead of dampen them?

One way is by acknowledging how clueless we are about the future. Again, very few expected these past few years to play out like they did. Thus, doesn’t it show how useless it is to get wound up about something we fabricate in our heads? While there’s always the chance things may turn out worse than we predicted, they may also turn out better, beyond our wildest imaginations.    

Our anticipations can be wrong even when we think we have a well-founded reason for them. To illustrate, my friends and family wanted to try out the ride based on the movie Twister at Universal Studios years ago. As we stood in line, we kept reading and hearing warnings about the winds and special effects being so intense that people with various disorders ought to think twice before riding. At eight years old, I grew scared of what awaited us, as did others in our party, and the continued alerts drove my dire imaginings, filling my eyes with apprehensive tears.

We almost backed out of line, but peer pressure beckoned us to forge ahead. Terrified, I entered the building, all the while wondering how many of us would make it out. Enhancing my agony, the attendant ushered me to the front row of the theater so I could watch ALL the action. Aside from the controlled fire that seemed way too close to the designated handicapped seating, though, the experience hardly put the thrill in thrill ride. Everyone just stood and viewed a fake gas station with tumble weeds and inflatable cows blowing by it! With all due respect, our imaginations provided more amusement than the designers, especially after we realized how ridiculous they were.

We can also make our imagination work for us instead of against us by letting it wander on positive aspects of life. Even if we don’t have a big event to look forward to, we can envision trying something new and how that might impact us or we could draw on a past memory, calling to mind the tastes and aromas that we enjoyed. On occasions when we know something won’t be immediately pleasant, like medical treatment and so forth, we should contemplate what benefits we’ll gain in the long run as opposed to ruminate on the difficulties during recovery.

Being a few days into 2023, we don’t know what the year holds, which provides ample opportunity to employ our imagination. Sure, there are bound to be some rough patches along the way, but utilize your imagination to make them easier. Most buildings feature multiple windows, with some offering picturesque views of the outside world and others revealing crummy ones. Likewise, our imagination can bombard us with bright and bleak prospects. When we catch ourselves peering out at the latter, we’d better close the curtain and turn to another window.

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