Do You Ever Engage in Imaginary Conversations?
A World You Can Control
Do you ever engage in imaginary conversations where you become a victim?
I am sure you will quickly answer no. But if you are like most of humanity, then you regularly engage in such conversations.
You know. The kind where you were walking down the hall or through the mall and your friend, or pastor, or boss was walking the opposite way. He or she seemed to glance at you, then looked away, and walked by without saying a word.
You opened your mouth to say hi, but as they looked down, the words stuttered to a halt or froze in your throat. Worse yet, you had already said hi when they looked back down! Your mind goes, ‘Oh! They hate me.”
You don’t think, “Maybe he was preoccupied and didn’t see me.”
Your Imagination Is Triggered
Shocked, you stand watching him walk away. Thoughts bombard you.
“What did I do? He deliberately ignored me. I can’t believe it!”
Your errands are forgotten and you find yourself back in the car. As you drive away, you begin a dialogue with him.
“Did I do something wrong? I saw your look. What did it mean? Why did you ignore me?”
Reviewing all the nuances of what happened, you conclude,
“I’m in trouble.”
A knot of worry grows in your stomach as thoughts churn in your mind.
“Am I in trouble? What did I do wrong? You said I was due for a promotion. But you just pretended you didn’t see me. Why? I know. You’re going to fire me, aren’t you?”
You may chuckle. But when it happened, it wasn’t fun as you tried to analyze everything that was happening. When your brain told you your friendship had ended, your pastor thinks you are a bad person, or your boss was about to fire you, you felt devastated.
That was an imaginary conversation with an imaginary person. Yes, he or she is a real person, but those churning thoughts have created an imaginary person. If you sat down with him or her, they would be shocked to hear the words your brain had coming from their mouth.
By now you are asking, what does this have to do with being a victim?
When you experienced a series of negative experiences with no resolution or fairness, you began to engage in self-defensive thoughts that lock you into the past and allow you to be easily triggered.
I used to be an expert at this. When we experience trauma and/or rejection, we feel like a victim.
As an adult, I saw myself as a victim. I knew Jesus died to set me free, but having a victim identity, I felt trapped in helplessness.
If you’ve ever felt powerless, you know just how frightening that can be. If your only escape was in your mind, you, too, learned helplessness.
Helplessness makes you think and act like a victim. Being a victim makes you desperate to find something to control. That is why you escape into your imagination. There you control when or how another person is humiliated or defeated, without ever having to be responsible for anything.
A victim of fate has no choices. That means you’re not responsible for the outcome. It feels empowering. You can act like a child and not need to take responsibility. After all, if things just happen, it’s not your fault! Which means there are no consequences.
Become a Survivor
To give up the identity of victim means you chose to become a survivor. To embrace freedom of choice is to become an adult and learn responsibility. You can’t blame anyone else for what happens. Choices result in consequences; things don’t just unfairly happen to you.
It feels scary to give up the false sense of comfort and feeling safe that comes from not having to be responsible for what happens. But feeling safe doesn’t protect you.
I know. This is very difficult! I am asking you to step out of feelings and face the danger of being responsible for the choices you make.
The secret is every moment of the day you have a choice. You choose when you open your eyes in the morning and when you close them again. You choose if you open your mouth and what you put into it. You choose the words you speak, whether to curse someone or bless them.
You are NOT a victim. You are free to believe what you want. You are free to set healthy boundaries. You are free to say No! You are free to walk away from toxic people or to quit your job. But with freedom of choice – you also have the freedom to eat poison, to be friends with toxic people, to put toxic thoughts into your mind, and to self-destruct.
You begin to walk out of the victim mindset as you learn to be present in the moment. When your brain wants you to escape into your mind, you say NO! Choose to be present with whatever is happening. Choose to give thanks. The Lord is with you. You are not alone. He will help you to choose life.
Make no mistake. Living in your mind, you choose to be a victim. You choose to be powerless and allow yourself to be victimized. You chose to continue in toxic relationships.
God gave you an imagination to help you be creative. But to live there is to reject life for an illusionary world with make believe people. To have a healthy imagination is to choose to bring your thoughts into order under the authority of the Holy Spirit. Rather than being triggered by the amygdala, you choose with your thinking brain to be in the present moment. With intentionality, you actively choose to learn to think and live like Jesus, rather than passively avoid or escape from the confrontations of life.
What am I saying?
Life is about choice.
Freedom comes as you choose to live in the moment. When you imagine something dreadful may happen, your brain believes it will happen or has happened. You become powerless to think with clarity. Like Job, what you fear happens.
Choose to stop letting your brain deceive you. Be present and speak truth to yourself.
Millions of letters and stories are written in the imagination. Choose to write it on real paper so you have a hard copy. Begin to be active. Avoid embracing the sorrow or joy of living in your imagination where there is no resolution and no progress.
A New Identity
Jesus died on Calvary to set you free. He died to give you a future. And a new identity. If you engage in imaginary conversations, you reject that future and that identity.
Dear Heart. This is really important.
Begin with truth. You are more than a conqueror in Christ Jesus. That is truth. But truth only becomes true when you choose to receive it and make it yours.
Choose life! Step out of the past into the present. Choose to turn from imaginary conversations. Let Jesus have control. Forgive that person.
Let it go! Move on. Give thanks. In Christ you are becoming a mighty warrior!
Keep short accounts. Choose life! As you do, you will triumph over the past and the Lord will turn it into something beautiful in your life.