Magical Thinking

Dear Rich, it seems like you moved past a state of distress, how do you keep from sinking back?

Well dear reader, I utilize a set of tools. My current toolset consists of the following beliefs. These are mental constructs that aren’t necessarily true, but they help me to imagine life in a palatable way. I should mention that my background is as a miserable pessimist that grew up surrounded by family afflicted with anxiety and/or anger.

My primary belief: life is 100% manufactured, like a computer simulation. I was never into religion or spirituality, so the computer simulation concept resonated with me the easiest. But from there, I was able to grasp the spirituality perspective, so now even the god-stuff makes sense. The fictional-world concept is useful because it means life is guiding me as if I’m in a car on a track in an amusement park — existence is a guided tour. Things can be frightening, but not ultimately nefarious, it’s for entertainment only. And there is no absolute end, we just get on another ride and go around again.

Relatedly, I believe in willful death. We decide when we’re ready to step off the ride. Again, this isn’t necessarily true, but it’s helpful in removing death-related anxiety. For instance, we sometimes hear stories of miraculous incidents where people survive even when they shouldn’t — in my belief, they simply chose not to leave, they weren’t ready to go. But eventually everyone gets tired of their particular story and decides to engage in another, so they willfully leave.

Illness is as imagined as anything else. I no longer focus on aches or pains, my body is not a mysterious bundle of symptoms that must be deciphered lest I die without proper treatment. My story will end when I will it. I also use my anxious tendency to help achieve this belief: I dare not focus on sickness or it’ll actually manifest. So whenever the idea of illness enters my thoughts I ignore it — a positive attitude about well-being has worked well for me.

I believe that hopefulness is a pleasant feeling that should be encouraged, so I actively engage in delightful daydreaming. I refuse to engage with negative thoughts and shut them down whenever they enter my mind — I had a lifetime’s worth of that crap and I’m done with it — it’s just noise that I don’t need. I believe meditation is a practice that helps me observe the stream of thoughts passing through and subsequently allows me to silence them.

I believe life has no other purpose than to serve as entertainment for the watcher within us all, and therefore I have zero performance pressure. There’s nothing I need to accomplish, no one I need to impress. I can attempt to accumulate meaningless in-game points if I want to, or not, it doesn’t matter. But I do try to mind my manners and treat everyone with decency and respect, and wish a good time for all.

As far as getting what I want from life, I believe life purposefully holds some things back in order to build anticipation and create dramatic storylines. Even though in the short-term I find it a little frustrating, I’d agree that it makes for a more interesting adventure overall. I also believe that life purposefully adds limitations in my abilities to keep me from blowing through life too easily. And I appreciate this because that’s just the nature of game-play.

Before I adopted these beliefs, I was wracked with anxiety, lightening could literally strike at any moment — the world was a wild landscape in which I had no control, whisked wherever by its whim. I had constant worry about the future, about death — I have none of that now. The ideas cross my mind once in awhile but I easily dismiss them as not fitting into my belief system. Those frightful ideas were also mere beliefs, I’ve simply swapped one set for another — and that has made all the difference.

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