Whether it is fate-driven angst (e.g., a pandemic) or a more subtle aching of one’s soul, (e.g., boredom or malaise), what is often being asked for is something new. However, in times of transition, we may not know exactly what the change may look like, and yet, our imagination is there to help.
According to the Concise Oxford Dictionary, imagination is the mental faculty to form images or concepts of external objects not present to the senses. Kant believed that imagination was fundamental to the human mind, not only bringing together our sensory and intellectual faculties, but also acting in creative ways. Ralph Waldo Emerson noted, “Imagination is not a talent of some people, but is the health of every person.”
Imagination aids in problem solving. Our intellect may wrestle with a dilemma and yet, when we imagine or widen the possibilities, answers often arise. In times of uncertainty and ‘not knowing,’ we can heed Albert Einstein’s statement that, “Imagination is more important than knowledge.”
However, imagination is not always positive as many of us habitually examine and imagine problems resulting in increased and unnecessary chronic stress, which limits and distorts our experiences.
In her article “Why Thinking Can Get You in Trouble,” Maria Hill notes that, “The imagination is a powerful aspect of our brain functioning. … If our imagination has been directed toward fear, that is a pathway in our brain that will automatically arise when we are contemplating a task – especially a new one….[Further,] “When our imagination has habitually been directed to imagining something positive, that is where it will naturally go.” A pattern to be aware of, and changed, if the former.
In creating something new we first have to conjure up an image of what we want to create. As William Blake observed, “What is now true was once only imagined.”
It is difficult to start imagining when we don’t even know what we want. Be as honest as you can. Take the time to turn inward and focus on how you want to feel, how you want ‘to be’, what your intentions are, and what virtues or principles you want to address. Listen for any negating thoughts (“You can’t, Don’t be silly.”) that might accompany these desires.
What do you want?
For many, the pandemic has made it pretty darn clear what matters most and what people want – more time with family, less time commuting or in malls. Prioritize. Clarify. Keep those promises NOT to return to some aspects of ‘the way it was before.’ Some employees are already asking employers for changes to work arrangements. Others have found or reclaimed activities, relationships, or parts of themselves lost over the years of busyness or distractions.
You may have an inkling for change yet may not know quite yet what that looks like. When our Ego does not know (we may be locked into left-brain thinking), we can channel into the right brain, into the more creative, spontaneous, feeling-based unconscious realm.
Our unconscious is rich with images. As Jung stated, “Image is psyche.” Our psyche or soul creates spontaneous images in the form of dreams, art, music and poetry. We use metaphors (e.g., “I feel like a caged animal.”) which invoke images and emotions. Look for these imaginative gems throughout the day. Play with the possibilities of “What if?”
“Imagination is the beginning of creation. You imagine what you desire, you will what you imagine and at last you create what you will.” – George Bernard Shaw