Tag Archives: imagination

Feeling Out of Balance and Centered at the Same Time Part 1 – Going Back to Basic Principles

by Barnes Boffey, EdD.; Director of Training, Aloha Foundation… www.alohafoundation.org


For many people, the recent election has provided a test of their capacity to stay centered and happy, especially given what they may see is a dire future ahead. There are, conversely, many who are ecstatically happy as they bathe in the belief that our next president will help them get what they want. In either case, this election has created more stress and contentiousness than any I can remember in my 49 years of voting.

It also means that many people who have been used to feeling powerful and in the “right,” may be feeling disconnected with their communities, their work colleagues and their fellow citizens. Many are feeling like “strangers in a strange land,” unable to connect with those around them and experiencing a true sense of being aliens in their communities. Primary responses to this have been angering, depressing, pessimism, and projecting deep emotions on events that have not happened yet. That coupled with the thought, “How could these idiots be thinking what they did?” leads to feeling very out of balance and in many cases, severely lonely.

The challenge seems obvious, “How can I maintain my center and a positive sense of being when I feel severely out of balance in the world around me?” Not surprisingly, this means we have to be ever more intentional about our actions in maintaining our mental health and happiness. It also gives us a chance to understand how Internal Control Psychology can be the foundation of this process. In the beginning, taking control of our emotional well-being means we have to remember a few foundational principles, as well as asking some very important questions of ourselves and others.

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The primary foundational principle we might be well to remember is that overall our metal health is determined by our ability to be loving, powerful, playful and free in whatever situation we find ourselves. If we cannot do that, we will be out of balance and likely blame the external situation for our unhappiness. It is easy to be loving in a situation where we feel supported and valued; it is much harder in a situation where we feel judged, alone and out of step with those around us. The same is true about being powerful, playful and free. If the world presents conditions in which we can easily be these things, it is easier to choose to create these emotions from the inside out. If we perceive our world as full of stupid people, or as a place where we can’t laugh because of how bad things are, or a place where we feel trapped as we see options shrinking in the future, we have to work much harder at following these psycho/spiritual instructions.

To be loving, powerful, playful and free regardless of the world around us, we have to bring to bear imagination, skills and courage.  In order to live in any environment, disparate or not, we must have accurate blueprints (pictures) of what it would look like if we were being loving, powerful, playful and free. We must move from the principle/values level to a more specific description of the actions, thoughts and emotions that we would be using if we were effectively following our instructions in that specific situation. Generalities are not helpful.

For example, if we have a relative whose political beliefs differ dramatically from our own, our initial choice of behavior may be anger, incredulity, judgment and disgust. We may feel these are totally appropriate given the situation, but if our goal is mental health and happiness, being “right” or focusing only on getting that relative to change their mind will be ineffective. Our first step in gaining balance must be creating a new blueprint which illustrates and defines for us what we would be doing, thinking, and feeling if we were being loving, powerful, playful and free at the same time that our relative continues to be who they are, not who we want them to be. This is the imagination piece.


How do we imagine a new vision of ourselves being in balance when we believe the world outside us is “wrong,” or crazy or unacceptable? This is very hard because we often don’t want to let go of our current way of processing things, and we probably won’t until the pain and ineffectiveness become bad enough to consider letting go, or until we realize that in maintaining our anger, judgment, and rigid behavior, we are becoming the very kind of person we have railed against.

The first step, imagination, means developing a vision of a balanced and happy self. We need a blueprint before we can create a behavior.  Being happy does not occur in difficult situations without a new level of intentionality in creating these blueprints. It means asking the question, “If I were balanced and happy, how would I be feeling in this situation?” The answer to that question will determine where we head next.

Let’s say for example, that our answer is “I’d be feeling strong, compassionate and detached (rather than infuriated, manipulated, out of control and judgmental). From there we have to create the thinking and actions that would accompany those feelings, and then act on those thoughts and actions whether we feel like it or not. One of the hardest parts in this stage is that we may be very attached to our ineffective behaviors; it feels unfair to us that we have to change when others are wrong. We may want to hold onto our “rightness,” and see how long we can get away with ignoring our basic instructions.

One thought that makes happiness almost unattainable goes something like this: “I need others to act in the ways I want them to act in order for me to feel the way I want to feel.” This way lies unhappiness. The road to true inner balance can only be attained in thinking, “I have the ability to create the emotions I desire in my life in spite of the actions of others. I don’t need to have others change for me to be happy.”

Next time: Part Two: Imagination, Skills and Courage

Design-The #1 Necessity for Change

by  Barnes Boffey, Ed.D; Director of Training, Aloha Foundation… www.alohafoundation.org

Before exploring types and dimensions, I want to offer a more basic view and review of what is happening in this process of change, and especially the process of changing pictures. We create pictures in our Quality World because we believe they are our best chance of being able to follow our psycho/spiritual instructions (Glasser calls them needs) to be loving, powerful, playful and free. These pictures don’t have to be real, moral, correct, accurate or attainable; they are just our pictures and the best we know how to create at the time.

If we want to help someone change, we have to know what pictures/blueprints they have at their disposal. If they don’t have blueprints that will be effective, flexible and realistic, they will have little chance of changing in ways that will allow them to be happy. To help people change there are three necessities without which it cannot work: A Design, The Skills and The Courage.

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If someone wants to change, the first step in the process is creating an attainable picture/blueprint of what they want the “the world” and themselves to look like in the future. This involves the process of Design. We have to create an image of the future that we want; we have to give our brain a blueprint with which to work or it will be like a carpenter building a house with no plan in front of him. We have to help people design the world they’d like to live in and the people they’d like to be in that world. If we cant imagine it, it is almost impossible to attain it.  Here is where the question “Can you imagine…? “becomes crucially important.

Suppose we have a struggling fourth grader we are trying to help, and we ask him, ”Do you want to be successful in math?” If he says “No,” we have another path to travel, but if he says “Yes” or “I don’t know how,” a question which should be asked relatively soon is, “Can you imagine being successful in math?” Nine times out of ten the answer will be “No,” and what we know, that he may not, is that without that picture he cannot be successful. Before going any farther, we need to help him create an accurate and acceptable blueprint of himself being successful.

To a woman contemplating divorce, we might ask “Can you imagine yourself being happy in a life which includes you being divorced?” If the answer is “No,” we have lots of work to do at the Design and imagination step before proceeding further. If she can’t imagine it, she can’t make it happen.

Feel what you’re feeling

by Dr. Ken Larsen

There is a phrase that I’ve heard from people who practice mindfulness.  “What we resist, persists.”

insides_kenFears that persist in our lives can have a devastating impact on our mental health and happiness.

While practicing dentistry I would see patients who were nearly paralyzed with fear.  This fear was connected to anticipation of the dreaded Novocain injection.  The images dancing through the minds of these people were associated with all the signs of stress and anxiety.  They were not without courage, however.  To show up for a dental appointment carrying that kind of fear was very courageous.

As I talked with these patients, I would hear them describe their struggle with fear.  “No matter how I try to fight it and overcome it, it is still there.”

If I could gain a bit of trust from the patient, I would get their permission to try something.  Usually there was a wary nod of the head.  I’d smile and say something like, “what I’d like you to do is feel what you are feeling.”  This usually elicited a puzzled look. I would then do something like touch the patient’s cheek with my finger and ask them what they felt. They would reply that they felt my finger touching their cheek.  Then I would ask them to stay focused in that mental state of feeling what was actually happening.  I would tell them that I was going to administer the anesthetic and I wanted them to feel precisely what they were feeling and then report to me after the injection just what they felt.

The results were amazing.  Most people got kind of a goofy look, remarking something like, “I hardly felt a thing.”  Or “I felt a little stick and then some pressure.”  We would then briefly discuss what they had learned about the difference between “feel what you are feeling” compared with reacting to an imagined fear.

I would further encourage them by remarking that it was OK not to like getting a shot.  I would smile and say, “I think I’d worry about you if you enjoyed it, but you have discovered that it is a manageable experience and doesn’t have to paralyze you.”  At that point there was usually one of those moments that we sometimes experience when two people understand one another in a new way and a good way.

I’ve come to see that his principle can apply to other fearful thoughts and memories and expectations that assail our imaginations.  Do you struggle with an unwanted, unwarranted fear that is interfering with your mental health and happiness?  I think if we understand the dynamics of “feel what you are feeling” we can make progress in getting free from those fears.

Try it sometime.  Notice your fear or anxiety, then notice what is going on around you.  Slow down, focus on your breathing and notice what you are feeling and where you feel it in your body.  Just feel it and breathe.  You might ask yourself how long you want to feel it and when you are done feeling it let it go.  This sounds too simple doesn’t it.  I used to think that, too, just as I thought that touching a person’s cheek could free a person from a paralyzing fear.  If you sit with it, breathing comfortably, you will notice the phenomenon of what has been called “urge surfing.”  The urge to fear will fade, just as a wave in the surf comes along, builds up, and then fades away.

Part of this process is to examine the reality that surrounds you.  Usually you will not see an actual threat.  Then you can realize that the fear is coming from your imagination.  That does not mean it is not real simply because it comes from our imagination.  It is very real.  The wonder is that you can develop the skill to make the choice to diminish and perhaps even eliminate the power that the fear has over you.

I am obviously summarizing the practice of mindfulness which is being used all over our country to manage stress and the resulting anxiety and fear.   If you want to go deeper with these principles, there is much material available.  I would recommend Tara Brach to start.  She has a wealth of material freely available on YouTube.