The week after the 2016 election, in desperation for a way to respond to my despair, I wrote to a favorite op-ed columnist at the New York Times. He had been my guide and interpreter in a political world I engaged with only to stay informed. I said: "Dont tell us how horrible this is and detail the doom that awaits us, we know that, what should we do? I never did get a response, and now, almost three years later, I am grateful for no response. What we should do cannot be answered by anyone but ourselves. If our response to this troubled world is to be meaningful and impactful, then the answer must arise from our thoughts and feelings alone. From a psychological perspective, my answer to the what should we do question is: count your chickens before they hatch. Who knows what your flock will look like, how sweet or productive they will be, what solutions you will come up with to protect them from the fox and the hawk. Each of us is endowed with undeniable talents and beauty! As a therapist, I consider it my job to hunt for these gems, even in the most defeated and defended. We also each come with an ego that rationalizes why we can't x,y,z, etc, become or have, do or be, an ego that defines our unique reality. So what if, as an experiment, or in CBT talk, a technique, you bypass the internal struggle between who you know yourself to be and reality, bypass the limitations of the physical world and dream. Imagine what you want in your world, state, county, town, neighborhood, house, people, relationships.
The Buddhists remind us that all creation starts with a thought. This imagine what you want technique gives you a place to start, ironically you start with the outcome, and permission to think in ways that spark your creativity. You will know you're doing this right because it will feel good, like a weight has been lifted or a smile you can't repress. Think outside your box. In these rambling collages of images, feelings and thoughts will come possibility that can translate into the physical world. For example, perhaps you think, as my favorite bumper sticker of long ago stated: Trees are the Answer. The world takes on a new focus, you notice trees, you collect leaves in the fall, develop a passion for pine cones, plant trees everywhere you can, create shade and homes for birds and insects, you feel a sense of agency and when you are old and a child asks you how did you respond to global warming, you can say: I planted and loved trees, and then die as you lived, in peace. Or, for example, you may go on to design the next generation of electric vehicles, or learn how to love someone you labeled as unlovable. Yes, it really is that simple, if you make it more complicated than that, you know its your ego saying its favorite word, No. You've become the NYT op-ed columnist who to this day can't stop reiterating what we all already know, we're in troubled times, and that is where you will define yourself, in a dead stop. There are so few of us who are destined to make a huge splash on this stage, like Jesus or Einstein or Hitler or Nikola Tesla, but we are all here, in the world of change and we can contribute our gems to the process.