Recently I asked this question on my Facebook page:
“Do you ever have spontaneous daydreams about awful things happening, like, ‘What if I was mowing the lawn and I accidentally ran over my foot?'”
No one replied. I’m relatively new to the social networking scene and still learning the ropes. I’m guessing no one answered because they were thinking, “Why on earth are you asking me that? … Weirdo.”
Here’s why I was asking. I have to believe I’m not the only one whose imagination occasionally gets hijacked by spontaneous images of disaster.
Sometimes I’ll get an idea of something horrible that could happen, and my whole body will respond as if it’s really happening; my heart will beat faster and my stomach will knot, my breath will be shallow and I’ll scrunch up with tension.
Like the other day as I was walking on the sidewalk, I suddenly pictured a speeding car jumping the curb and ramming me right into a building that didn’t look very soft.
I’m writing this because I’ve figured out a good way to deal with these unbidden catastrophic fantasies when they sneak up on me.
Trying to clear the thought from my head doesn’t work as well as this:
As soon as I discover that I’m using my own brain to freak myself out, I relax my whole body. The moment I do this and take a nice deep breath, the image disappears – Pop! It’s gone.
It’s almost as if the tension in my body created the fantasy, instead of the other way around.
So if you happen to be in the thrall of an unpleasant daydream, try this “relaxation response.” I never read the famous book by that title, but I wonder if it’s the same principle.