Saturday, March 1, 2014

Dreaming vs. Living

imagination can be good or bad

My imagination gets me in trouble.

Don't get me wrong - imagination can be a really great thing. It's good for visualizing scenarios and preparing for presentations, difficult conversations, and dance performances. I also love envisioning stories from Jesus' life in the style of Ignatian contemplation - it really brings to life the people present at the events.

I took a pretty extensive aptitude test in high school. Overall, it served to confirm a lot of things I already suspected about myself - like the fact that I have poor fine-motor control but good spatial skills (great for engineering!). The one thing that surprised me was my high score in idea flow. This test measures how quickly you come up with ideas. Scoring high is good for jobs like sales, journalism, and teaching - things that require you to be quick to adapt and find new ways to approach situations. I didn't realize it then, but I do this naturally - not necessarily for practical purposes, but my mind is always active and travels from one idea to the next, seeing a situation in a new light or creating a made-up scenario to work my way through.

But there are downsides to having an active imagination.

For one, concentration can be difficult. With wheels constantly in motion, it's hard to stop and deeply consider one idea since the next idea is already tumbling along. I find myself daydreaming or coming up with lots of new projects to do (and forgetting half of them).

The biggest problem I run into is using my imagination (consciously or not) to alter reality.

Have you ever had a dream that was so realistic you can't figure out if it was real or not? And then your perception of a real-life person changes because of what they did your dream? This is the unconscious imagination I'm talking about.

In addition, I start daydreaming and create conversations in my head where my friends say exactly what I want to hear. They do things that make me happy or make me feel special. Usually, it's directed towards my own gratification. In a sense, I'm creating my own reality and changing my friends' personalities to suit me.

And that's not good. It sets unrealistic expectations for my real-life friends and disappoints me when they don't live up to my altered view of them. But it's not their problem - it's mine. I'm the one who isn't fully embracing the unique people I encounter for who they are. I'm the one who is expecting something but not telling them what my expectation is, setting myself up for disappointment. I'm the one trying to change them.

So for Lent, I think I'll give up daydreaming. I'm still fleshing out the idea, but this seems like a long-time habit of mine that isn't doing me good. With God's help, I hope to emerge from Lent able to more fully embrace those around me - not because of what they can do for me or what I can imagine them doing, but because each one is unique and unrepeatable (to use JPII's words). It'll be a hard journey but one that will lead to a deeper appreciation for and connection to the people God has created.

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