Despite beginning my journey down the self-development path in 2004, I didn’t know what the destination would look like. In fact, I really struggled to picture my future.
As a young adult, I had no career calling to me, and thus looking at job adverts was like looking over a menu where all of the food includes something I “don’t mind” and nothing I truly love. Nothing jumped out at me and I couldn’t make a choice.
The Map and Compass
It’s clear to me that without a direction, without any idea of where we want to be, we can be lost. Without a destination, we can’t access or even create a map.
So, I began to pick out future events I’d like to happen. I pictured me-in-five-years, and she had a house and was writing her novel. I couldn’t tell if the novels were her full or part-time work, but they existed in the future. It was a tiny sign to step towards.
Through knowing my novels were important enough to still be in my life in five years time, I learned the importance of devoting time to writing “in the now”. If I had stopped writing completely back in university, I wouldn’t be that “me-in-five-years” who is a writer. And I knew I want to be that future writer.
Our imagination is a wonderful tool in the journey of development. You can redefine your future by acting in certain ways now. And the best part is: no one can read your mind. So you can redefine life as it happens to you, too.
Imaginary Panic Weasels, Redefined
Ellie Di has written before about anxiety and worries as “the panic weasels”.
She once defined panic as: “a dozen weasels. Now put them in a dog crate. Now give them PopRocks and Coke, shake vigorously, and open the door. That’s what happens to my brain, my heart, and frankly, my whole day when overwhelm and stress meet in a shower of shit I just can’t handle.”
When I first read this idea, I found it charming. A way to re-define our mental state, a way to shift our perception.
But nowadays, when I experience panic or worry, being able to shift those thoughts into a mental image gives me a little control over my mental situation.
Enter the Ferrets
Thinking of a crate of weasels running around the safe space in my head, I get to work on my imagination. I sprinkle them with water until they hide in a corner. I put up cardboard barricades which led from the wall to the patio doors. I sent my ferrets after them. When they left, I tried to shut the doors, and when they tried to get back in, my imaginary cats guards the door.
I had no idea I had inner kitten and ferret guardians until Ellie gave me the tool to frame my anxiety as a weasel. But the imagery really works for me.
Think it’s a bit weird? I guess it is. But you’ve got nothing to lose by trying it. You can cultivate some lizard guardians if you’d prefer.
It’s Not Exactly Science…
But there is evidence that our brains can’t tell ‘reality’ from imagination.
When we watch a scary movie, we experience real fear.
When you imagine running into that person you like, you feel the butterflies in your stomach.
And when you see the panic as weasels, you can pick them up by their tails and chuck them out, or you can visualise ferrets chasing them away for you.
The calm that follows? It’s the brain’s way of saying “phew!” because the anxiety is gone from conscious thought.
And it’s in your control.
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