Overcoming despair with creative self-questioning

Creative alternatives to despair using your imagination

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Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash

Creative alternatives to despair with imagination

You can listen to this essay as audio here on my Sunday Soother podcast

Happy Sunday, Soothers. If you found yourself exhausted in the past week, alternately joyful and numb, elated and down, in the aftermath of the U.S. presidential election, know that I’m right there with you. From Sunday to Wednesday, I was basically a husk of a human, staring at walls, wondering how this corporeal form can possibly contain and process so many emotions at once. It can and it did, of course, but it was a very physical experience and just know if you’re still tired or feeling any sort of way, it’s completely normal after a massively emotional event like the one the U.S. just collectively went through. Simply continue to rest.

Anyways, as I was reflecting on the past week and what I could even possibly write today that would be meaningful or resonant after such a moment in time, I kept coming back to the question that had looped in my mind for months: “What if Trump wins again?”

And how completely, utterly, totally useless and in fact self-harmful that line of questioning had been.

That framing of that question was simply a portal to very dark timelines of frantic, imaginative thoughts about all the continued catastrophes that could potentially unfold.

So why did I keep allowing myself to go there?

It was a good reminder that this is the line of questioning I so often see in my coaching clients and in potential clients, too. I’m opening up some coaching spots in January and a lot of the folks who are considering working with me are often feeling stuck because they are operating from a place of fear. So naturally, the most frequent question I get from potential coaching clients who feel very stuck and in fear and despair, is along the lines of, “What if this doesn’t work?”

I used to try to answer this question with proof; send dozens of testimonials, detailed explanations of how my coaching works, examples of assignments I give clients, etc etc.

Recently, as I’ve pondered the futility of “what if?” questions, I simply encourage those asking me to try a reframe.

Instead of asking “What if this doesn’t work?” I ask them to consider:

“How will I make sure this works?”

Can you feel the energy shift between the two questions?

One places all the power in external forces and a vague, amorphous potential outside of you to ensure that something happens while you wait nervously to receive.

One reminds you that you are not a passive participant in your life; that you have a say in if something happens, by the way.

You are not a passive participant in your own life.

I was really reminded of why it’s so much more powerful to approach life this way when I came across an article I linked in last week’s Soother, “On Despair and the Imagination.” I was re-reading it this morning and I wanted to leave you with an excerpt from it:

“There are other cities we can go to, there are completely new sorts of work we could try. There are places we can travel where no one knows who we are. There are lovers who will have a very different approach to intimacy than those we have known to date. The oceans are so large and beautifully unconcerned with us. We are grown-ups, that is, people with choices. We are not the small children we once were who had to depend on their parents for everything and were imprisoned by narrow circumstances…. We don’t have to stick by the script we thought we’d be following all our lives. We might have wanted to do so — but we are profoundly flexible creatures. When we arrived on the earth, our mental wiring was loose enough that we could have developed into excellent foragers in the Kalahari desert, Latin scholars in a university or accountants in the logistics industry. Our biology is elastic. We may have lost a little of that primordial flexibility and latitude, it might no longer be so easy to pick up new languages or physical moves, but we remain eminently equipped to acquire new tricks.”

The oceans are so large and beautifully unconcerned with us.

And no matter what, we have the ability to stop asking “What if?” and instead ask ourselves, “How will I…?”

My challenge to you this week: If you have a dream, and you’ve been asking yourself, over and over again, “What if this dream doesn’t work?”

Instead, journal on this question:

“What are 10 things I can do to ensure that this dream works?”

And go from there.

If this Soother spoke to you, consider signing up for the waitlist for Shift, my goal-setting and dream incubator for sensitive people. These are the kind of questions we will be asking ourselves daily in there to achieve the lives we want.

Teaching awakening + healing through vulnerability + self-compassion. Finding hope in a messy world. Author of the Sunday Soother. http://catherinedandrews.com

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