Everything we do is rooted in an idea, one way or another. When what we do is habit, or has been absorbed from our culture as ‘normal behaviour’ we might not notice it as an idea. We might think that’s just the way it is and that nothing can be changed. Our brains work in ways that make running down the same lines of thought all the time inherently easy, while coming up with totally new ways of thinking takes more effort.
If you want to change something you have to build the idea. It is well worth doing this deliberately and making time for it every day if you can. Imagine yourself doing (or not doing) the thing you wish to change to. Building a thought form this way allows you to test it and find out more about how it might work for you. It creates the scope to fettle the plan before you try doing anything for real. This can head off a lot of problems!
Here are some examples:
If you drive all the time and think about distance and your arrangements in terms of cars, think about walking or catching the bus. What would you have to figure out to do that? Ask the questions, do the research, then imagine getting about by other means, and make a point of imagining it. At some point you’ll have a go – keep reinforcing that by imagining yourself walking places or taking the bus. What you do will change.
If you want to be more confident in ritual, imagine yourself in a ritual space. Imagine the kinds of things you might be called upon to do, and picture yourself not just doing them, but doing them really well and feeling respected for your contribution. You can also try imagining making mistakes and that everyone is kind and supportive when that happens. By building these ideas, you build the confidence to have a go, and you also have a better idea of what to do, so you’ll do a better job.
I’ve also used this strategy to tackle anxiety and to try and reduce the experience of being triggered. I’ve got some good mileage on this score. I would only recommend trying this if you feel reasonably on top of things already – if you are deep in crisis, thinking about things that trigger you will probably just trigger you and make everything worse. If you are recovering and feel safe these can be things to explore.
Everything we do, we dream up first. Even the things that seem spontaneous will come from somewhere. You don’t spontaneously murder someone with an ice pick if you’ve never thought about it before. However, if every day, you imagine taking the ice pick from the garage to murder your neighbour, the odds of doing this are much increased. When we’re not in control of this, and our daydreams are fed by sources we aren’t paying attention to, and when we don’t notice what our recurring wishes and fantasies are, something other than us has the steering wheel in our lives. Being more conscious about how you dream and what you want and what you envisage yourself doing gives you back control, and allows you to make deliberate changes.