Thursday, December 28, 2017

Understanding and Taming Imagination






It is almost impossible to overstate the importance of imagination in the human mind, spirit, cognition and how we go about our day to day lives. It is in many ways essential for our understanding others and the world around us. It has been and is critical for every human achievement. 

As with all human mental functions, however, it is vastly misunderstood much to the detriment of us mental health peeps for, like any and all human mental capacity, there are the beneficial aspects of imagination and the dark side of imagination. So today we will have a look at understanding more about it and - as the title suggests - "taming" it. 

Also as with many human mental functions (as with one of the Holy Grails of neuroscience endeavours, consciousness itself), there is no one "center" in the brain for imagination. Nor is it, as long has been popularly believed, exactly a "right brain" thing (though this remains not completely resolved and not without controversy and numerous opposing views). Nor is there any one definition for "imagination" or any one way for how it is utilized by various of the human race. 

As for its location in the brain it is - as can be said about many things in life - "everywhere and nowhere". Which drives many a scientist batty as they have this wont to pin everything down into definitive knowable "facts" that they can point to with certainty which is what gives rise to many a pitched battle between camps in the neurosciences (of which there are many, often with very little overlap in the approach to understanding this wild and wacky 3.1 pound tofu like blob between our ears that produces - somehow - everything that is "us").

Because "everywhere and nowhere" is not a particularly satisfying answer and we need a better understanding than that, let's try a different way of looking at it.

There's a substance we're all familiar with that may prove a useful analogy. 

It is at once one of the most benign and destructive substances on earth. It can buoy us or drown us. Not enough of it and we shrivel up and die. Too much of it can sweep us to our death. The human race learned to exist on its surface to carry itself to every reach of the earth. The same surface dashed many to their deaths. All other substances contract when cooled, this substance expands both when heated and cooled. Either extreme will again kill us. Yet we can't live without it.

I am talking, of course, about water. 


Like water, imagination is essential to "who we are" but it can also be one of the most destructive forces the mind can create. Like water, imagination has many beguiling qualities seemingly at odds with one another.

Like water, imagination can buoy us and carry us almost anywhere we wish to go. Or it can sweep us up and dash us against rocky shores. 

As with any cognitive function, there will be much disagreement and many ways of looking at it which is all quite normal. For now then I'm going to ask you to put all that aside along with any of your own prior notions on today's topic. All that matters is how you see this, how it opens up your mind to better understanding you and how to move you forward. Nothing else really matters. There are some difficult truths here to recognize, grapple and come to terms with and the only thing that matters is that you begin this path, one of several you need to take to get that pernicious mind of yours to stop giving you so much grief. Anything else is abstract philosophical hair splitting and navel gazing and frankly we don't have the time or energy for that. 

It is a path I had to take. I cannot say it was an easy one but the most necessary paths we must take never are. I think I can say, however, and if I may be a bit immodest for the moment, that I have at least somewhat blazed the trail for you and if you'd like to follow that trail I'd be happy to try guide you along. 

I have, to remind, what one might call the "high end of the spectrum" bipolar mind. I can well assure you that the bipolar mind is capable of some pretty nuclear grade imagination that runs to the extreme edges (and tragically, often beyond) of human capabilities. It has both buoyed me and carried me through troubling and challenging times and at other times been the greatest threat to my continued existence on earth. 

I can say - with one hundred percent certainty - that "understanding and taming" my imagination was utterly essential to my survival. Like everything else I do in order to survive (and now to thrive and reach my life goals and ambitions), it is something I have to work at daily. Like all mental functions it has to be trained and trained daily in order to be of optimal use to us. 

With those thoughts in mind then, let's get to it. 

As regular readers will know I am considered a bit of a dab hand at the study of neuroscience and cognitive neuroscience (and to remind, the former is about the "nuts and bolts" of the brain - the physical anatomy and biology - the latter is more to do with all the mental and cognitive phenomenon those nuts and bolts and biology produce or not). Today's piece is less about the former and more about the latter, meaning we're not going to get too much into all the possible anatomical and biological basis for this weird concept known generally as "imagination". As I mentioned at the outset, it is one of those mental functions that is "everywhere and nowhere" in the brain so attempting to pin down where it is in the astronomically vast tangles that is the human brain and what it "looks like" in there would be, I don't think I need to elaborate, quite beyond what we can accomplish here today (not that I wouldn't like to try and I always do but I won't inflict that upon anyone here). 

To begin, let's first look at a very brief definition of "imagination". To quote Marriam-Webster, it is "the act or power of forming a mental image of what is not present to the senses or which has never before been wholly perceived in reality". This is quite inadequate for what we're here for today but it will do for a working model to start with. Let's break down the three main parts of that definition to see what we need to better understand. 


  • the act or power of forming a mental image (it's useful here to note that image is the root word of imagination)
  • is not present to the senses 
  • has never before been wholly perceived in reality

These are three distinctly different aspects to look at more closely and get a deeper understanding for our purposes here today. 

There are many different ways to perform "the act of forming a mental image" as we'll begin to see below. This is the crux of understanding the power of mind and where the lines blur in what constitutes our individual subjective perceptions of life around us. 

"Not present to the senses" is something I will return to in more detail at the end but this is critical to keep in mind when sorting out what our own minds are doing to us and what to do about it. 

Aaahh, "reality". As long time sufferers/readers will know, the study of "reality" is one of my favourite neuroscience topics and one that I firmly and deeply believe is a cornerstone to understanding the mind and all mental health disorders. Which is why we're here looking more closely today at the power of imagination, in particular yours. As we have learned, whatever our experience of "reality" is, it is created by our brains. In other words, whatever you perceive about the world around you, that is what your brain and your brain only creates. There is literally nothing else on earth quite like it. Very important to keep in mind. 

In the worlds of philosophy and physics (and more recently neurophilosophy), "reality" is a very thorny subject indeed (again, with several wildly opposing camps who routinely engage in all out academic warfare with each other). Far be it for me then to attempt to pin down any definition of "reality" that will satisfy everyone. But for you and I to get anywhere we do need some sort of fairly agreeable working definition so for now we're just going to think of reality in the two following ways:

Consensus reality: this is as opposed to "individual perceptions and experiences". For our purposes here today we're going to think of this as some of the most basic facts. We live on a planet called earth. It revolves around the sun and rotates in such a manner as to give the appearance of the sun "rising" in the east. The basic colour spectrum as the human eye sees it and the basic sound spectrum as the human ear hears it. Fifty degrees Celsius is very hot and fifty degrees below zero Celsius is very cold to our skin. Various tastes such as salt, hot spices, sweet, etc. The experience of general odors - most feces and rotting foods "stink", the smell of fresh air is pleasant. And so on along those lines. 

Physical reality: physical objects that exist independent of our individual being; trees, rocks, buildings and so on and the physical realities of the effects of these on other objects. Real basic physics involving mass, gravity and velocity among other physical properties of the "stuff of earth". If a large boulder or tree drops on you it will crush you to death. A small lead projectile traveling at 1,200 meters per second will cause great damage to whatever it comes in contact with. We become deprived of oxygen or water and we will die. A large number of substances if ingested will lead to quick and horrible deaths. Contact with high voltage electricity will also lead to a quick and unpleasant death.. Water or air moving en mass and at speed will cause great damage to all it comes in contact with. And nearly countless etcetera along these lines All of these, you will note, will occur regardless of any individual belief or concept of "reality".

There is a third - "practical reality" - but we'll get to that at the end.  

Seemingly mundane, I know, but to fully and really grasp what something "is" we must be very clear on what it is not. For our purposes here today then we need to understand how independent imagination exists outside of "consensus reality" and "physical reality".

Now, let's look further at what imagination is in the human mind (1).


The human capacity for imagination is on one level or another interconnected with:

- belief

- creativity

- intelligence and abstract thought

- future predictions

- expectations

- hopes and dreams

- memory

- individual concepts and experiences of "reality"

- thoughts

- escapism

- drives and motivations

- delusions of all kinds

- empathy


Bearing in mind that I could go on in long mind numbing detail on all of these, let me try to briefly talk about each (long time sufferers/readers will recall and understand - with humour, I hope - my challenges with "brevity"). Some of this will appear obvious to many but it is important to your deeper understanding for us to go over these and for you to at least a bit "come in my direction" of understanding these. This is the ten years of classroom experience "teacher me" talking. Trust me, no shortage of students get tripped up on their own assumptions of the basic building blocks of what they think they know about a larger topic. 

Belief 

The concept of belief is where we begin to voyage outside of consensus or physical realities. As such, it is very much a product of what our individual brains will produce. I shouldn't need to point out, but I will anyway, that a great deal of what we "believe" will be very rooted in what we can imagine and how we imagine that. The more powerfully we can imagine a given concept the more we can believe that. 

We are not here to judge or dismiss others' beliefs. This is very touchy and difficult ground, I can assure you, so we best keep away from any such temptations in that regard and in any case we are here to better understand your beliefs and their basis. 

Creativity 

Creativity means to create what did not exist. Needless to say, we cannot create what did not exist if we cannot in some way imagine it first. Yes, I can see the "well, d'uh" eye rolls from here. Trust me, you do not understand this as well as you, well, imagine. Like all aspects of imagination this can be for the good or it can destroy us. More later. 

Creativity is not, as commonly assumed, just about "the arts". It involves literally anything that can be created. It is essential in engineering and architectural design and construction. 

Intelligence and Abstract Thought 

Much of the products of higher intelligence means solving problems of all kinds, often in novel ways and which involves higher order abstract thinking. Before you get to the solution it is very handy to be able to, like creativity, imagine or visualize what the solutions might look like. We can see this throughout mathematics, the sciences and so on. The better you can imagine the "end goal" - the solution for a particularly pernicious math problem, for example - and the individual steps for getting there (the formula, in the case of a math problem), the better the chance of getting there and/or learning to get there. 

We can see then how important imagination and the development thereof is to education and learning.  

This is where we begin to understand the "practical reality" I mentioned above, however. It is not enough to merely imagine a solution; you have to have or be able to learn the chops to get there. 

Future predictions 

The very nature of the future is that it does not yet exist therefore anything about the future is by necessity "imagination". It does not matter how clever the devices are that are employed to "predict" the future, the fact remains that nothing about the future yet exists or has happened yet. We can get into all kinds of laws of probabilities and so on but it doesn't matter. Regardless of what anyone tells you, or whatever you believe or would like to believe, the future is not knowable with 100% certainty. When we are attempting to "know" the future it is in fact the product of our imagination; we can only imagine what may or may not happen. 

To understand this is to understand in great part what leads to crippling anxiety. Or at the other end of the scale, delusional optimism that can lead to ruinous decision making or actions. 

Expectations

Quite closely tied to future predictions, expectations are feelings we have about how we anticipate certain events or endeavors will turn out. Our individual powers of imagination will have enormous effects on both how future events will play out or not but, more importantly to mental health, the crushing disappointments we can experience if things didn't work out as we expected or anticipated. 

Hopes and dreams

I hardly need point out that all our hopes and dreams rest entirely on our powers and abilities of imagination. Hopes and dreams are the very essence of what it means to be human and to exist in meaningful ways and indeed to move forward in life. You want to whistle down into the depths of despair, let this ability get fucked up. Yes, I know; if you are reading here there is a good chance it already is. Bear with me, though, we are starting along a different path now. 

Memory 

Imagination can take many forms and spring from many "wells" in the mind but I would hazard to guess that the great majority will be tied into whatever exists in our memories and a great deal of what you imagine is your brain taking past experience and projecting that into present experiences or your future. I have written about memory functioning in depressive disorders before and how our brains tend to project the past into our future. 

Why this is super critical to understand about creating our future and how we first imagine what that may be is that we want to learn to be very careful about understanding where our imagination of that future is coming from. If it is based too much on past failures, disappointment and so on this is going to create very dark "imagination" of our futures and sap us of hope and dreams creating yet more anxiety and depression. It is therefore really, really important to know that regardless of how powerful our imagination is of our future (both immediate and long term) it doesn't necessarily have to be like that. 

Trust me, this is something I worked like hell on. I would NOT be here had I not. 

Individual concepts and experiences of "reality"

Okay, we are now heading into uncomfortable territory for understanding imagination and its power within and over us. I don't particularly like being the bearer of "difficult news" but I'm afraid there's no choice. So we're going to be brave here and bite the bullet of truth here; the vast majority of what you perceive of as reality, what you believe to be reality is in fact the product of your imagination. 

You may want to read that over a few times and let it sink in some.

Very easy to see in others, a whole different matter in our selves. How much and to what degree will depend a large amount on your grasp of consensus and physical realities. Yes, I know; that pain you feel is of your toes being stepped on. But if there's one thing I learned in all my journey in moving from broken down and penniless in psychiatric hospitals to where I am today is that we have to face and deal with truths about ourselves that we don't like. Painful truths, in other words. This is one of those and probably, I would argue, the most important one. 

Let's think this through then. One, it is not possible - for you or anyone - to know with absolute certainty all there is in this vast and complicated world of ours all that is "real". It is not possible to have had first hand sensory experience with anything more than a tiny, tiny fraction of it. Much of your understanding of it by very definition then must be the product of your imagination. You haven't been, for example, to China but you can form a concept of it, one that is based on your imagination. In truth, however, you have never been there and it would take years of living there and intense study to really "know" that area. It is therefore impossible for your concept of that place to be factual in any meaningful way. Your concept of it then is based entirely on imagination. This is true with the vast, vast majority of your concepts of "reality", what you "think" you "know", what in fact you imagine you "know".

Relax, though. It's not just you, all brains do this. Even a good deal of what we "see" with our eyes is by necessity "filled in" by our brains (the neuroscience of this is quite fascinating). This is part of where "reality" gets all mucked up as seen through a philosophical lens. 

It is here that we need a gentle reminder of what I wrote above about about "reality" - whatever your perception of the world, it is created by your brain. As your brain is completely unique to you and you only, your experience of and perceptions of reality is unique to you and you only. However, there are billions of other people in the world each with their own unique one of a kind brains and perceptions of reality. How is it possible that any one of those could be "more real" or "more right"? 

The answer is quite simple - it is not. 

Which is why objective reasoning and the sciences have been so important and why we need concepts such as "consensus reality", understandings of "physical reality" and practical reality but most importantly the understanding that our individual subjective experiences are very unlikely to be a completely full and accurate "picture" of "reality". 

There is a double edge to this painful blade of truth, however. Chose well and it becomes not painful but opens up vast expanses of positive possibilities. More later. 

Thoughts 

More troubling news, I'm afraid. Like your concepts and experiences of reality, the vast majority of your thoughts likely come from your imagination. In other words, again, they are not well rooted in consensus or physical reality but the stuff of your imagination. Great if you're Einstein, not so much if your thoughts are driving you batty (as they likely are if you're reading here). 

Escapism 

A mental skill of the human mind that rests entirely on the ability to imagine for which the very point is to escape the reality of unpleasant immediate or long term life circumstances. Many will dismiss this mental strategy but it is in fact an essential tool to keep at bay otherwise unbearable and soul crushing suffering and circumstances (when I get into this in more detail when we examine all this further, I have some amazing examples from POW survivors). Here we see a great deal of popular fiction ranging from sci-fi and fantasy to romance novels and so on. Again, there is a whole scale to this and what "works" for any one individual. 

Like any such mental tool, however, it can be come a trap in itself when people are unable to - ironically - "escape" the imaginary worlds in their minds and deal properly with their circumstances. On the other hand, many mental breakdowns or chronic anxiety and emotional distress may be as a result of an inability to employ this strategy effectively. 


Drives and motivations

Okay, now we're starting to move into territory where we begin to really understand the power of imagination over us and how disastrous it can be. This where the rubber meets the road in understanding imagination and many mental health disorders and negative behaviours. It is here where I must insert some basic neuroscience and the biology of human behaviour. I have written before on dopamine pathways and their roles in motivation and drives (in this piece and this one in my other blog if you are so interested). As I outlined in those, dopamine pathways play enormous, essential and powerful roles in keeping us motivated and moving towards goals. 

Future goals. 

Goals that don't yet exist. 

Goals then that are completely the products of our imaginations. 

Dopamine pathways - like a great deal of our subconscious brain machinations - are "blind robots"; they just do what they do without our conscious awareness or input. Yes, I know, scary. Which is the point. As I pointed out in the piece on dopamine in this blog, there are a couple of key anatomical areas in dopamine pathways - the ventral tegmental area and the nucleous accumbens - that "jack up" dopamine signalling and drive us or motivate us towards something. These don't just operate out of the blue, they need some sort of input. 

And that input is - tada - what we imagine. We imagine those spiffy new pair of sneakers. We imagine all the prestige and future income from that college degree we're toiling through. We imagine what that sexual encounter is going to feel like. And countless, countless, countless so on. None of these things yet exist in our actual world outside our imaginations. 

Healthy realistic imagination equals higher probability of success. Unhealthy unrealistic imagination and visions and how they "program" and amp up dopamine pathways is what virtually all addictive behaviours are about, run away mania is about, the destructive delusions we see in schizophrenia, the roller coaster up and downs we see in many mood disorders and so on. 

At the other end of this spectrum is imagination that is filled with too many fearful and painful images of past failures (of ourselves or others). This is what kills motivation and drive and keeps us frozen to where we are, that drive us instead to the depths of hopelessness and lost despair. 

This is the imagination that can sweep us up in towering waves and mercilessly dash us upon the rocky shores of life. This kind of imagination will destroy lives. 

Delusions and delusional thinking

Now we're venturing into the extreme - but a more very real possibility for both you and many others within your world than you would care to admit - ends of the dangers of imagination.

First off, delusions are not all bad and are in fact common in almost all people. "Positive delusions" are, as this excellent piece in Brain Pickings illustrates brilliantly, a great part of what keeps us sane and moving forward confidently. In truth, we very often don't "know" with absolute proven certainty that we can perform a given task or role successfully but if we imagine we can, we can do it reasonably well regardless of whether we are good at it or not. Are we good? Maybe not so our belief and confidence that we are is at least somewhat imaginary. It is, as the piece points out, a necessary delusion. Not having this ability is why many people melt down with anxiety and stress over their ability to successfully go about their day to day lives.  The key is that it is grounded in a good dose of practical reality, some realistic skills and abilities. 

Now, lets look at the other end of the scale. Here is where we have grandiose delusions (with which I am on more than a passing personal acquaintance, I shall say), paranoid delusions, the delusional disordered thinking seen in schizophrenia and so on. If you think these are only about someone else and you are "safe" from them, think again. Almost all people are prone to them (and there is no shortage of evidence for this), including some of the most brilliant people in history (such as the famous case of John Nash of A Beautiful Mind fame).

This is imagination - the ability of the mind to produce mental concepts and visions that are not real - run very amok but one we must look at carefully and truthfully. Again, this kind of "imagination" gets too tied into our dopamine pathways and it can lead to the very driven and self-destructive behaviours we see in bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. 

Empathy 

write elsewhere about empathy in some detail but briefly for now empathy is the ability to "put ourselves in the shoes of others to understand their mind and feelings". To state the obvious then, our abilities to feel empathy would be rather limited without the powers of imagination. But we must also remember that it is imagination and therefore quite possibly not a completely true or an accurate representation of the actual reality of the other's situation. As I outlined in that post, it is another human function that can really run out of control and get us into great mental health trouble. 

The untamed power of imagination will play great roles in creating powerful cognitive distortions and faulty reasoning


*   *   *   *   *

I fervently hope, dear reader, that you are beginning to grasp the complexities, wonders and dangers of this broad mental concept we generally know as "imagination". Like water it is necessary for our existence but also like water we must fully learn to understand the full breadth of its powers. To learn that in the right amount it keeps us alive, too much of it can drown us. The right type can be life saving, the wrong type (sea water) will poison us or that in impure form it can make us gravely ill. We need  to learn how to harness those powers to carry us to distant lands or to be an incredibly useful tool in our lives. Perhaps most importantly for us mental health peeps, is how when stormy it can also drown us, toss us around, lift us up and dash us against rocky shores and - I mean this quite literally - drive us crazy. 

So then, what to do. 

Firstly, let's take a different tack for understanding this mental power of ours. With this we can then look at some strategies to work on. 

It's important to understand that, like all the capabilities of the human mind, there is a whole scale and spectrum of the powers of imagination. At one end we have more "reality grounded" imagination. This is the creative power of imagination we harness when problem solving (like math or physics problems), when we are conceiving something we are going to build or create (anything from a carpentry project to knitting a sweater), that engineers and architects or car designers employ and so on. For these things to be "reality grounded" the solution to the problem or the project has to be viably doable, produce a  provable solution, a real product or thing and the one with the creative vision must have the necessary skills and means to bring the vision to fruition. 

Here also, of course, we have the creative arts; painting, writing, poetry, dance and so on. 

Many of us may have the powers to envision all kinds of solutions or physical or artistic creations but if they're not viable or doable or if we don't have the skills, means and abilities to make them happen, then these visions of imagination are closer to the realm of fantasy. This is where we need an at least somewhat solid grounding in what I referred to at the beginning as "practical reality".

The next important aspect of imagination is how it helps create mental models for understanding the world around us and events at which we can't directly attend or experience. This is where imagination can be both enormously helpful and horrendously destructive. Leaps of imagination can lead to terribly wrong assumptions and actions based on them. This is where it's critically important to bear in mind "not present to our senses" and to realize just how much our minds - this power of imagination - is "filling in" our concepts of what may or may not be happening. Think then of powerful runaway emotions based on these and actions based on them. Think of, as just one of hundreds of possible examples, jealous fits of rage based on nothing more of a "vision" of what the sufferer "believes" is happening. Think of many, many times in your own life when you were powerfully emotional about something that wasn't present, wasn't happening but was only a vision of imagination in your mind. 

Most people, I find, tend to only think of the positive powers of imagination. Not me. I have been through - horrendously so - and seen too many others go through too much of the negative powers of imagination in the mind, this ability of the human mind to create - harmfully, dangerously and destructively so - "what is not present to the senses". 

This is the stuff of crippling anxiety, fears, depression, despair and being controlled by emotions. 

Overly powerful and unharnessed imagination plays large roles in creating false memories which in themselves create vast misconceptions of reality and life around us which can also lead to disastrous actions or circumstances or further exacerbate or mire people in existing ones. 

I must firmly point out that there are no "bright lines at the borders" of any of this in the brain (and hence why it's important to understand that it's "everywhere and nowhere") nor is it restricted to any one type of person we are tempted to label (such as "schizophrenic" or "bipolar" or "mentally ill", etc). These are all common phenomenon of the human mind regardless of social class, race, gender, place in the world and so on. All minds do all of what we looked at above to one degree or another at various times. Any aspect of what we looked at might be a part of a conscious strategy or more likely - as with 98% of all brain function - subconsciously function. 

I cannot tell you - and you likely wouldn't want to know - how much the darker edges of some (though not all) of this was "my world" and how hard I had to work to escape it. 

Many people now are familiar with my story of overcoming an extreme bipolar mind, being broke, homeless, in and out of psychiatric hospitals and so on and not only survive that (in the very real sense of not dying or living the very unpleasant fate of many others who'd been through that) and how I am working to leave that behind to once again grow and thrive. Virtually all without medications of any kind and almost entirely outside the mental health care system. I get asked again and again how I did it. 

Well, folks, this is a huge part of how I did it. A massively huge part I now realize as I have worked all this through into this piece. A very great deal of how I "tamed my polar bears" - the wild and incredible powers of the bipolar mind - is how I learned to understand and tame the powers of imagination. 

I had to learn and sort through what was more reality based imagination, the positive powers of imagination and what was "less reality grounded" and was harmful and creating - in a sort of literal sense - my worst bouts of suicidal darkness and crippling anxiety. 

This is NOT to say that your sources of anxiety and depression are "imaginary", only that it is very important to be able to identify what constitutes a real threat and what is not. Trust me, what are "imaginary fears" and real fears gets very, very tangled up in the mind. 

I had to learn to find, accept, and then work through some very, very difficult truths of the human mind and my mind; those which I am now passing along to you. 

That was the hard part. Nobody - and I'm sure you can attest for this - wants to admit that much of what is in their mind is a product of their imagination. Yet it is a fundamental truth of the human mind and it is a fundamental truth of yours. The inability to see, accept, admit to and work on this is a product of another powerful part of the human mind - the ego. 

Perhaps my greatest "stroke of luck", as it were, was that my mind, the difficult circumstances that became my life and the world around me utterly destroyed my ego. I had no choice. 

I prefer you not have to go through that (trust me, you really, really don't want to).

But this is life, people - real life, not the fantasy concept all too many people exist in - the facing and dealing with hard fundamental truths. The truths of your flaws. This is not about anyone else, this is about you and what you are going to do about you. 

This, I see, is going to require a second part to fully outline but briefly for now, this is how I approached taming the powers of imagination in my mind and learning to better harness them. 

Everything - and I mean everything - you see in this blog and my now improving life is the product of those efforts. 

This is how I climbed out of the depths of despair of broken hopes and dreams to create - step by step - more realistic and doable hopes and dreams and to see them, as events of this year attest, slowly realized. 

This in great part was how I learned to "tame" the towering overwhelm that used to often crush me - or drown me to use our water analogy. 


I spend an inordinate amount of time studying science and basic building blocks of fundamental facts. This is where I better grounded my mind in consensus reality. You don't have to be as dedicated as I am but I suggest you start. Also along these lines, I am ruthlessly careful about what I allow into my mind for "news" or information. An enormous part of this blog is reading material for you intended to help you get started. I intend on putting up much more fun material and teach much more along these lines in my upcoming new website. 

Dedicating most of my days to and staying emersed in mindfulness activities. This is being as present and mindful as one can with what is "present to the senses". This includes music therapy, cooking therapy, my housework, my research and writing, daily exercises and so on. This played tremendous roles in "grounding my reality" to the present, the here and now reality. I learned to apply this not only to "fun stuff" like above, but in facing my problems and challenges. Again, there is much more in store for learning tools coming in my new website. 

My Brain Training Exercises. I used these in great part to help work on the "creative solution" aspects of imagination as well as keeping me grounded to the here and now present. 

Learning to understand and tame empathy was critical as well as learning to prioritize my daily actions around realistic doable goals. 

Learning to daily let go of what was to allow for what may be and working daily on creating the best positive outcomes out of whatever I faced that day. Positive outcomes doesn't always mean "getting what we wanted" but is more about learning lessons for better moving forward and improving one's mind and self. This is also how I daily created better memories which helped build solid realistic visions for my future. 

As I alluded to above, choosing to accept that much of what is in our minds is "imagination" which is likely not completely true or useful to us and is indeed harmful to us and to let it go can be incredibly liberating, enlightening and can open up vast areas of both your mind and its power but also in your life. This is where we can open our minds, hearts and lives to beautiful growth and learning. Again, this is what took me from the horrors of my past to where I am today. 


All of this can be very difficult, I know. But I am going to ask you to be brave - I can tell you that if you are here reading this you have much more courage than you know - and to believe that you can do this. That you can make this part of your own incredible journey and path. 

Yes you can. 

Yes. You. Can. 


Thank you as always for reading. Your being here means more to me than you could know





(1) There is, needless to say, controversy on whether various animals possess the ability to "imagine" and thus have "imagination". Any kind of concrete proof of this is, of course, quite difficult to ascertain with any certainty but as one who studies all brains and their abilities and the evolution of the human brain, I feel I can say with some confidence that yes, animals of various kinds possess the ability to imagine, albeit in limited ways useful to their survival in their particular environments. Before you come to any conclusions, however, I must caution about reading too much into your own observations and bear in mind that conclusive proof is rather hard to come by.



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