Are You Using or Losing Your Imagination?

My granddaughter and I invented and evolved new game today while I was visiting.

It started out with her asking “what if you couldn’t see me,” knowing I would show her what it would be like if I couldn’t see her. She became invisible for the next minute or two while I searched for someone I could not see. It was fun for us because she had fun, and that was the objective for my visit. It also meant we needed to name this game.

I suggested we call it “Invisible,” and include it among “Give Me a Hug,” “Push Papa Out the Door,” “Hedgehog,” and “Mom is Base” in the repertoire of games we invented and play. She suggested calling it “Ghost” and adding to it that the ghost can say “boo” and frighten the other person. She also suggested that we always play the same roles so we can get good at it!

I don’t get to spend a lot of time with my granddaughter, so I must use the moments we do have together to create for her those memories of an adult who had fun with children. Those memories will, hopefully, inspire her to become an adult who has fun with children. I feel it a duty, also, to use whatever time we have together to pass along to her whatever she will grasp about vision, creativity, and infinity.

It was probably a year ago that she told me that someone told her that unicorns are not real. I told her that unicorns are not real only in the minds of people who do not exercise their imaginations. I assured her that when she is a unicorn, it is not her pretending to be a unicorn; she is really a unicorn being played by her. The difference is subtle but significant.

It is the difference between pretending and acting, and we all do it every day whether we know it or not. Knowing why and how we do it is important in using it to improve the person we each can become.

Why we do it is based on our self-images. We make decisions based on the perspective of the person we believe ourselves to be.

Let’s say that we see ourself as smoker. We will make decisions to buy and stock cigarettes, and to fret when the money or supply of cigarettes runs low. If we make the decision to quit smoking, we must redefine ourselves: we will see ourselves somewhere on the range of people trying to quit smoking who know they cannot quit, to a non-smoker who smoked during a period of our lives.

How we do it is based upon why we do it. In the example, you can see how the decision we make when offered a cigarette will likely be different depending only on how we see ourselves after we quit smoking. We will be the person we believe ourselves to be, even if we consciously do not want to be that person.

One of the greatest books I have read on self-image is “Man’s Search for Meaning” by Dr. Viktor Frankl. The first part of the book is about Dr. Frankl’s experiences as a holocaust survivor in a German concentration camp during World War II. The second part of the book are lessons learned from those experiences.

One of the lessons is called “paradoxical intention.” It is a concept we can use to become the person we want to become. It is really simple: make every decision you would make if you were the person you want to become. By acting as the person we want to be, we are closer to becoming the person we want to be.

Though the concept is that easy to say, it is not so easy to do. It becomes easier, though, if you relate “acting as the person you want to become” with “assuming the role,” as actors assume roles to become characters. Once in character, actors remain in character. People who pretend are never really that character, and that is a major reason we fail at breaking bad habits or cycles.

If you assume the role of the person you want to become, and you don’t leave character, those around you will notice the difference. Some may think it’s fake. It will be fake if you are pretending. It will not be fake if you are acting, for you have assumed the role. The person you have become is real, but only for as long as you act as that person would behave.

If others have doubts, remember that the only people to whom this person you have become is not real are those who do not exercise their imaginations. Eventually, though, they will believe it if the changes are permanent. They will have no choice.

From my own experience, I wanted to become more patient. Little things bothered me, and little things happen too often for that. I imagined that a more patient person would observe his surroundings or the people around him. He might also strike up a conversation with someone also waiting. He would accept that there are traffic jams, that people make mistakes, and that no one woke up that morning intending to inconvenience him.

I have acted that way long enough now that it is habit. I no longer imagine becoming that person. I now am that person, and have been for some time. I still use my imagination to improve myself and things in my life, but I have dealt with my impatience.

So, are you using or losing your imagination?

I began the article with a story about a child who did not question whether unicorns are real until it was suggested to her that unicorns are not real. They are not real only to people who do not exercise their imaginations.

Infinity was also mentioned. Imagining infinity is not beyond human capability. It is not simply endless; it is also without beginning. It is everything that has ever existed, everything that will ever exist, everything that has never existed, and everything that will never exist. Unicorns are real in infinity, as they fall within one or more of those categories within infinity.

Infinity is the reason there are no new ideas. Those to whom new ideas are attributed are those who went into infinity with their imaginations, and came out with something that never existed but now exists. It, whatever “it” is, was always there to be imagined by someone. That person will almost always be someone who understands that anything is possible, though occasionally there are happy accidents.

Though imagination is limitless, it is important to begin from where you are. That is always the best beginning spot, regardless of from where you are starting or whatever you intend to accomplish. There will be variables, but those are relative to each person and the person he or she wants to become.

This is the one constant to using your imagination: using your imagination must become part of your self-image.

After that, assume the role and don’t leave character.


Quotes from “Man’s Search for Meaning” by Dr. Viktor Frankl

“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.”

“What is to give light must endure burning.”

“The one thing you can’t take away from me is the way I choose to respond to what you do to me. The last of one’s freedoms is to choose one’s attitude in any given circumstance.”

“Life is never made unbearable by circumstances, but only by lack of meaning and purpose.”

“If there is meaning in life at all, then there must be meaning in suffering.”

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