When you notice an upset ask yourself what role IMAGINATION plays in the upset. Get yourself out of the imagination into something real in the present. [For example, you notice that you are afraid of your driver’s test, notice how imagining that you are going to fail is involved in your upset.] When you notice the role of imagination get out of imagination into something in the present—such as “Now I am eating my breakfast.”
The human imagination is wonderful. Because of its powers artists can create, athletes can mentally rehearse their moves, speakers can go through their remarks in their heads, and we can all use our imagination to prepare for the future. So what is the problem?
Our lower self uses the imagination to torture us. We are approaching some event and in our minds we have already failed. I remember a comic strip from my childhood in which a man was on his way to ask a favor of his friend. As he walks he is imagining that the friend is going to refuse his request. He starts to get angry. In his imagination the friend is very rude and unpleasant. He gets more angry. When the two finally meet face to face he says nothing, but hauls off and hits him, stomping off in righteous indignation.
That is, of course, fiction, but there is enough truth to make us laugh.
Often we are upset not by events themselves, but what we imagine an event is going to be. We anticipate a problem and then become worried as if what we imagine is going to take place in the future is actually happening now. We create a picture in our mind of what another person will do, or what we ourselves will do. Sometimes we can even torture ourselves and make up all kinds of theories about what people think of us, or what we think of ourselves.
The point of this task is first to notice, in a time of upset, what part imagination is playing in our feelings and thoughts. The second thing to do is to bring ourselves into the reality of the present moment, and notice if anything changes.