Later that evening I was expecting to meet a friend, lets call her Molly, and I idly imagined how our conversation would go.
I had just found out that a plan of mine wasn’t going to work out, and I imagined telling Molly how it had all gone pear shaped.
As we ‘talked’ in my imagination, I imagined her response to the news, somehow it sounded critical and a little patronising. “Hey, just a minute, that’s not fair!” I thought, getting a little annoyed.
Have you ever had imaginary arguments?
Preparing for conversations that are due to happen later, or rehashing conversations and arguments that have already occurred.
Sometimes these little soap operas in our heads take on a life of their own. This one was off and running and I was completely caught up in it.
As I imagined the criticism coming I got more and more irate: “How dare you question me! I don’t tell you what to do!”
Luckily a small part of my mind (the part inhabiting the real world) noticed the hot indignation and the racing pulse and suggested I did something about it.
I started to tap, I didn’t use any words I just went through the sequence a couple of times until the feelings of annoyance subsided.
As the outrage and anger subsided I noticed a feeling of defensiveness, without the indignation to mask it that feeling became much more noticeable. So I tapped a little on that: ‘Even though I feel defensive ….. tap, tap, tap’.
I went back into my imaginary conversation, now when I told Molly what had happened I was much calmer and she sounded less critical.
Just when I thought everything was OK she said something ending in ‘…. you’re going to have to …’, I replied ‘Yeah, I know’ in a rather sarcastic tone.
More tapping ‘Even though I’m sarcastic … tap, tap, tap’. Back to the imagined conversation, now it seemed quite amicable, she didn’t sound patronising or critical, and I didn’t feel indignant, agitated, defensive or sarcastic.
By now you might be wondering if I haven’t got anything better to do than have imaginary arguments with people who aren’t there.
Ever heard of mental rehearsal?
Athletes use this all the time to prepare themselves for events by rehearsing in their minds how they want to perform at their best.
Most of us haven’t been trained to use mental rehearsal, but we rehearse our future by letting thoughts rattle around in our heads and take us down old familiar paths, perhaps imagining future delights or disasters. You could almost say that worrying is mental rehearsal of things going wrong.
Certainly worrying about this particular future conversation wasn’t doing me any good, my heart rate was raised and probably stress hormones were leaking into my system. I was lucky enough to spot the process and do some tapping to relieve the stress as it arose, once I’d done that my mental rehearsals went from worrying about the conversation to anticipating it.
So what happened in the real conversation?
Funnily enough, it was fine. Later that evening the topic came up as I knew it would. We talked about it easily and she didn’t seem at all critical or patronising, even better I didn’t get irate or defensive. In fact it was a very helpful and friendly chat, nothing like the one I’d imagined that afternoon.
Here’s a suggestion: If you find yourself imagining something happening in a way you don’t like, tap away the negative feelings. You never know, it might make it easier to imagine, and have, a more satisfying outcome.