I call it writing hypnotherapy I do daily - Blogging.
Anxiety is a real pain the a**. There have been so many times where the tiniest of inconveniences have exploded into life-ending problems. Of course, this is all happening in my head. It’s all thanks to that little anxious voice in my head that goes, ‘What if….’. There’s a good quote by Stoic Philosopher Seneca that says, ‘We suffer more in imagination than in reality’. At first, I couldn’t understand what this quote was trying to say. Surely a physical pain will hurt more than a mental pain, right?
But then I remembered all those times where I had sleepless nights worrying about a presentation/interview/date, all for it to turn out perfectly fine. So, I thought that looking into this quote in more detail would be worthwhile. From my readings and personal reflections, I found that there are two main reasons why we suffer more in our imagination: We underestimate ourselves and overestimate the situation.
We underestimate ourselves
I’m not good enough. This is probably one of the most dangerous thoughts to go through our heads. It doesn’t matter what stage in life we’re in. For some of us, there’s that underlying feeling that we could, and should be doing more. I believe that there are two factors at play here. Our unrealistic expectations and inner critic.
One common thing that I’ve noticed about people who tend to suffer more in their imagination is they tend to have unrealistic expectations of who they ‘should be’. They believe that they need to be perfect, or else the worst will happen.
The problem with this style of thinking is that when we inevitably realise that we aren’t perfect and we fail, our fragile self-esteem is crushed and the inner critic shows its ugly head.
I told you that you couldn’t do that. You’re just wasting your time. As our inner critic rules the show in our minds, we start to experience incredible suffering at our own hands. Only because we ‘failed’ to meet unrealistic standards that we brought upon ourselves.
We overestimate the situation
The other side of suffering more in our imagination comes from the fact that some of us have the tendency to overestimate the severity of a situation. In other words, we overthink a lot and focus on the negative.
How many times have you been confronted with a difficult situation only for your brain to go into overdrive thinking about all the different outcomes that could happen? In all fairness, it’s not our brains’ fault. This is part of its job is to protect us as going through these scenarios (however unlikely, positive intention ) helps us be prepared for any unsuspecting events. However, where the problem lies is when we start to enter a negative thinking loop that will really drive us to go on that way, to fulfill our fears due to our over exhausted in our fear and anxiety, that prevent us from excel our potential to overcome difficulty.
We don’t just overthink. We hyper-focus on all the bad things that could happen, and then start believing that they WILL happen. This is where we start to suffer more in our imagination than reality because our brains don’t take negative thoughts lightly.
In fact, when you hyperfocus on negative thoughts, your brain triggers the body’s fight-or-flight mechanism releasing a bunch of stress hormones. That’s right, we don’t even have to be in the stressful event, all we have to do is imagine the stressful event and our brain goes haywire ( messy 亂七八糟).
How can we be better?
So, how do we overcome these negative tendencies? Something that I’ve been doing recently is trying to match my negative thoughts to the reality of a situation. When I started my new job, I had many sleepless nights worried that I would make a fool of myself on the first day. Ultimately, I had convinced myself that I would be a burden to the team. This was 2 WEEKS before I had even met anyone.
Things are always better than expected.
Do you know what I did? I wrote all these thoughts down as they arose. I didn’t force myself to not think about it. In fact, I allowed the darkest thoughts to flow through me, and then I collected them all in my journal.
When I started work, to my surprise, none of those thoughts came to pass. In fact, my first day was extremely pleasant. Everyone was beyond friendly, and it was obvious that I had made the right choice.
A week after starting, I dug up my notes containing those thoughts and I re-read them. I had to show myself that those obsessive, negative thoughts that had plagued me for weeks didn’t match the reality of what happened.
I made sure to re-read the words aloud so that I could hear all the nasty things that I thought about myself. And then I spoke to my past self telling him the truth. You didn’t spill coffee on the first day. You actually made a few friends and weren’t a loner in the corner. Well done.
It was one of the most cathartic experiences I’d had in a while.
I now believe that although he has been dead for a very long time, Seneca’s words are very applicable to our modern society. If you allow yourself to, you will definitely suffer more in your imagination than in reality. The key is to be aware of when you’re falling into these negative tendencies, and then take full control on re-framing how you think. It’s not an easy process by any means but I can guarantee that it’s worth the effort.11 7 2017