Yesterday’s post (click here to read) addressed the idea that our problems, measured as physical events occurring in real-time, constitute a very small percentage of our actual lives. Yet, these “small” problems seem to set the tone of our entire day. A 15 minute argument with a co-worker can amount to a week’s worth of sleeplessness. Let’s talk a bit about why this happens.
Most problems are imaginary
One of the primary reasons that small problems seem to consume so much of our energy is because we’re conditioned to use our imagination against ourselves.
Not only do we argue with the “jerks” at work, but we take them home with us in our imaginations and continue our debates. We fantasize about what we should have said or will say next time. Not only do we embarrass ourselves at work, but we actively choose to subject ourselves to the experience over and over again by reenacting it in our imagination.
It’s bad enough when others seem to create trouble for us. It’s even tougher when we create trouble for ourselves by voluntarily meditating on unpleasant experiences.
It seems that in many cases where “bad” events do happen to us, our greatest problem lies in how we use our imaginations to sustain and amplify the existence of the event.
If you can’t find it on a map, it’s in your mind
As physical events, most of your unpleasant encounters don’t even exist anymore. They’re nowhere “out there” for you to find.
That embarrassing moment you had last month when you put your foot in your mouth? You’d have to hop into a time machine to find it now.
The guy who cut you off in traffic this morning is not in front of you right now. He’s somewhere having the time of his life at a pool party while you can’t even enjoy your dinner because you keep talking about him.
Get inside of your own head before someone else does
Most of your troubles exist primarily in the mental world of memory, imagination, and interpretation.
If you can just get control of that, you can significantly reduce the amount of daily stress, frustration, and unhappiness you feel.
Resist the temptation to start dwelling on the things you can’t change (ie. past events that don’t exist anymore).
Focus more on what’s going on inside of you and you’ll have a lot more psychological and physical energy available for the more difficult problems.
In the future, I’ll be talking more about how you can reduce stress by reorganizing and gaining more control over the contents of consciousness.
For now, that’s today’s two cents.