Saturday, April 23, 2011

Change your Magical Thinking

This is the third post in which I write about magical thinking, a life view and habit that keeps many of us stuck. (Read the first post here and the second, a journalling exercise, here.)

If you have recognized that you do engage in magical thinking, if you've thought or journalled about it, you might want to know how to do the next step...changing your magical thinking.

As I said in my last post...
By recognizing and then loosening your grip on magical thinking, you'll find new energy, new resilience, fun, and hope.

  1. Notice one aspect of life in which you're waiting for some magical solution to appear. Money, relationships, job, lifestyle and health are common areas for magical thinking.
  2. Name what you're wishing would change, such as:
    • more satisfying work
    • no more debt
    • more travel
    • better appearance
    • happier family life
    • ...or whatever is on your mind
  3. Can you name the person or entity you've been wishing would make your situation better? Is it God, or a loved one, or some nameless and faceless Something? This can be hard, because magical thoughts are usually vague by their very nature, but give it a try.
  4. As you pay more attention to your wishing-thoughts, notice how you feel, such as:
    • hopeless                   
    • wishy-washy
    • angry
    • vague
    • tired
    • frustrated
    • lonely
    • wistful
    • without energy
  5. Now say or write a statement that includes what you've noticed in the first four steps. This might be hard or uncomfortable, because part of the power of magical thinking is that it's vague and usually not put into clear words. But looking at your wishful thoughts and putting them into words is an important part of seeing and then changing them. For example:
    • When I think about my huge debt load, I feel tired and hopeless. I wish Uncle John would die and leave me his money.
    • I wish God would just change Susan so we'd be happier. She really makes me mad. Maybe she'll just leave, and I won't have to deal with this mess.
    • If only I could win the lottery, big time. Then I could quit my lousy job and travel around the world.
  6. Take a few deep breaths. You might be feeling guilty or pathetic or angry or many other things if you've written out your unnamed desire for someone to die or go away. But this step is so important if you're going to actually see changes in your circumstances. Because magical thinking is often so vague, we don't really pay much attention to those thoughts; they seem to hover in the background of our minds and hearts. The trouble is that while they're hovering, they're also draining us of energy and blinding us to our ability to be responsible for our own lives.
  7. Now try this. Below your "I wish..." statement, write an "I will..." statement, such:
    • I don't like being in debt, but I will change that myself. If Uncle John wants to help, that's a bonus, but I don't need him to die for me to get out of debt. I'll take an honest look at my finances and see what my options are. 
    • I 'm not happy with my marriage and the messes Susan has created. But I'm an adult, and I can take a look at my part of things and do something about that. And I'll ask God to help me with me.
    • I've waited for ten years to win the lottery, but I just keep losing. I don't like my job, but I need an income. So I will make a list of the pro's and con's about this job, and I'll start a savings account for trips I want to take. Then I'll decide where to go from there.
Maybe you've noticed that the I will statements are different than the I wish statements. They're more action-packed and positive. Their power results from looking at the reality of a situation. And in saying them, our power is made available to us. Even if the changes that follow are hard or uncomfortable, they're rarely harder or more uncomfortable than the problems we lived with before we changed our magical thinking.

So, the last step (#8) in changing your magical thinking about a situation is to actually do something concrete. Make a budget or talk to a credit counsellor...and then follow his or her suggestions. Stop blaming others, look honestly at your own undesirable behaviours, and change them. Quit your job or change your attitude about the one you have. Start a savings account with $2, if that's what you have.

Small, concrete, responsible steps are the antidote to magical thinking. And the result is more energy, a more positive outlook, healthier relationships, better finances...whatever. You decide because you can.
You can follow the steps below by thinking it out, talking with someone, or writing your answers.Start small, since this is often the best way to learn new skills and attitudes. Here are eight suggestions for doing just that:

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