Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Magical Thinking -- a journal exercise

Last Wednesday I wrote about magical thinking, a view of life and self that resides deep below the surface in some people. (Click here to read that post.) This sort of belief system is part of childhood's charm, but in adults it supports an unhealthy degree of passivity. Magical thinking, as I mean it here, keeps us meekly waiting around for someone or something else to resolve our problems -- financial, personal, professional, etc. -- while we do little or nothing to progress.

As I said the other day, magical thinking is not the same as being patient or wisely waiting for the best time. It's not the same as trusting others or accepting limitations. These are helpful ways to interact with the world, while magical thinking makes it hard for us to move forward and to recognize our own strength and ability.

Letting go of magical thinking means seeing one's own strengths and weaknesses realistically. It means letting go of the idea that others will fix one's problems. It means taking responsibility for choices and decisions.

Get out a pen and paper and set aside 15-30 minutes to start. Ask yourself the questions below to help identify if you are prone to magical thinking. And as with any new awareness, the purpose of this is not to criticize yourself but to take the first step in change -- recognizing the problem. Keep in mind that many people have the thoughts and feelings described below; the trick is to identify if you frequently count on others to make things better.

Q?    Do you find yourself wishing someone would come along and pay your    debts or fix a troubled relationship?

Q?    Do you have vague feelings of powerlessness or inadequacy in your own daily affairs?

Q?    Do you feel like you're getting nowhere, especially in areas of life that are important to you? 

Q?    Are you sometimes jealous of people who seem to "have it all together?" Do you compare yourself to them or resent them?

As you work through these questions, others might arise. Do your best to honestly explore the questions and the answers. Be kind to yourself, since that's the most effective way to stay interested in change. If you beat yourself up over perceived failures, you just add to the pile of magical thinking and lack of progress.

You can make changes that make you and your life more dynamic! By recognizing and then loosening your grip on magical thinking, you'll find new energy, new resilience, fun, and hope.

In another post, I'll write about  ways to turn magical thinking into dynamic thinking. Once you begin to recognize the old patterns, you'll be able to build new ones.

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