Have you ever dreamt that your partner was cheating on you then woken up and been in a mood with them for hours, even though you know it’s not true and it’s completely irrational to be feeling that way? Well, I’ve had a few daydreaming instances this week, of a similar ilk, when my mind has wandered to situations that haven’t actually happened, but they played out in my mind with me being treated poorly and responding in a weak way, just as I know I would normally respond in reality to that situation, at least emotionally on the inside. In my imagination on one of these occasions I walked out of the room crying, felt despair and incapable of doing anything about the situation and I experienced those emotions in reality, even though the situation hadn’t happened and was unlikely to happen. This type of scenario has probably happened to me thousands of times over the years, worrying about things that are never going to happen, but lately something else is happening too. After the instance I just mentioned I felt I needed to stand back and analyse how I dealt with this imaginary situation to see if I could handle it differently. I realised my response was based on a lie, the lie that I had no internal resources to deal with it. I also realised, when I imagined other people in the same situation just how differently they would handle it, because they had a lot of internal power and seemingly rock solid self-esteem. They just wouldn’t take that kind of crap from people, it would be water off a duck’s back to them, they certainly wouldn’t get in a state of angst about it. I started to realise how I could begin using these negative daydreams to train myself to think and respond differently in real world difficult situations. It still takes bravery to put it into practice in the real world, it’s scary standing up for yourself when you’ve spent your whole life being controlled by others, but it’s a solution to a long standing problem.
I think I need to get some familiarity with the emotions that strong people feel when others try to control them, and flexing my self esteem muscles in the safety of my imagination, seems a good way to go for me. I think of it as a bit like repeatedly running a computer simulation of a scenario, adding in different variables each time and watching the difference it makes to the outcome. So I’ll let the daydream run with the variables of my default setting of feeling powerless and then borrow a few variables from the characters of other people I know well enough to be confident about how they would react in the same situation, and let the whole daydream play out again with the new variables. From this I can see how the outcome would be very different if I responded differently. I’m not just a victim of circumstance; it puts the power back in my hands; I’m acting from resourcefulness not dependence on the kindness of others (even though that is deeply appreciated when I get it). If I flex my self esteem muscles in my imagination gym, then hopefully when these situations arise in real life I’ll find I’ve actually grown enough self esteem muscle in the real world to handle them effectively.