Have you ever thought to yourself, “If I could just know the future, then everything would be ok.”
This kind of magical thinking troubles a lot of us. It’s called anxiety, and thoughts like this carry the potential for a lot of wasted energy.
Anxiety is a powerful self-willed illusion that says, “If I can outsmart life and predict the future, then I will be ok.”
When we are in anxiety, we work over a problem until our brain is like a hamster on speed in a wheel—a whole lot of running with nowhere to go.
What could go wrong?
How many different ways?
What will he say?
What will she do?
What will I do?
What if? What then?
Anxiety is imagination filled with the rocket fuel of fear and distrust. When we are anxious we are misusing the gift of imagination to try to know what’s going to happen and control it or react to it. No matter how hard we try, we can never know the future.
There is another way to use the gift of our imagination to help with anxiety.
That old bald guy with glasses and a funny accent, Sigmund Freud, painted a picture of human beings born into a helplessness that we never quite outgrow. It could be said, we all have a Child inside of us. And like many children, often he or she is afraid.
What if the next time you were anxious, you recognized the Child in you was feeling fear? How might that transform your anxiety? How could you show the Child compassion? What kindhearted questions could you ask the Child? How could God meet you and the Child and reassure you?
This kind of creative imaging can help sidestep the wasted energy of anxiety and productively cultivate compassion, presence, and peace.
Stephen James, MA, LPC-MHSP, NCC, is the Executive Director of Sage Hill Counseling in Nashville, TN. He is also a best-selling author of five books, including Wild Things: The Art of Nurturing Boys. He is active in training other mental health professionals as well as to speaking to audiences around the country on the topics of living fully, servant leadership, family relationships, and spiritual authenticity.