Facing a difficult situation? Invite imaginary reinforcements to back you up.
Facing a Nerve-Racking Event
When you're worried about an upcoming event that will require a great deal of inner stamina and courage, you've undoubtedly been told that you should bring one or two family members or friends for support. What I'd like to suggest, however, is that you consider bringing a whole bunch of people. You can even do it without taking up any space in the place you're going to go. How? Let me tell you my experience. Perhaps it will give you an idea you can apply to yourself some day.
My story had its roots several years ago in which I spent too much time, effort and money on a person who made many promises and delivered almost none. After she was out of my life (or so I assumed), I assigned the messy affair to my long list of hard-won lessons and assumed we had put the matter behind us. That's when I opened an envelop from a government agency and learned that in two weeks I was to appear before a special hearing officer to explain why I shouldn't pay this person thousands of dollars more. Suddenly two pages of a summons brought her back into my life like a bad penny you can't get rid of.
I didn't worry about the validity of our position. We were right. My friends agreed with me. After all, what are friends for? I even planned to bring a friend for moral support (the fact that he was a lawyer didn't hurt). But I had never before been required to defend myself before an officer of the court and was more than a tad bit anxious.
In fact, my stomach was taken over by a stampede of butterflies. (Do butterflies actually stampede or do they just swarm in flutters?) Anyway, I kept going over and over and over what MIGHT happen. I worried about whether or not I would present my position clearly and concisely (as friends and family will attest, I sometimes get wordy when I'm nervous).
Expecting Old Anxiety to Rear It's Ugly Head
I imagine my anxiety has to do with all the times when, as a child, I tried to please those powerful authorities called adults, who could grant or deny my requests. They could also decide my reasons for doing something of which they disapproved were unimportant. Consequently, I spent a lot of time figuring out what hoops I needed to jump through and what arguments would win the day back then.
Now I have grown up a bit and am much better at presenting my point of view. Nevertheless, needing to plead my case before a government official whose decision could cost us a lot of money, meant I had to be particularly convincing.
Two weeks, however, is a long time to ruminate on any subject. It's a long time to worry about what I could say and how I could say it. While I realized that there are people who have to go through much more difficult trials than mine would be, in my life at this particular juncture, I was frustrated to the max. I needed a way to set aside my concern.
Rehearsal Imagery With Invisible Allies
Fortunately, I talked with a friend who suggested I use "rehearsal imagery" and imagine everything going well. Why hadn't I thought of that? After all, the technique is a significant part of imagery -- which is my specialty, for heaven's sake!
Taking her advice (and the advice I often give others) later that day I sat in the chair where I generally meditate and closed my eyes. Then I imagined myself entering the hearing room with self-assurance, believing that I was about to present my testimony concisely and well. Immediately, I began to feel better. Then an interesting thing happened. Without any conscious intention on my part, I imagined that ALL of the friends who knew the situation and who had commiserated with me during the past year were attending the hearing with me. In my mind's eye I could see them sitting and standing around the hearing room, nodding their approval at my arguments, and cheering me on.
What a relief! Their presence (unseen to my adversary, but clear to me) would give me the calm courage I needed to present my position. After that, every time I thought about the hearing, I imagined myself with so much support that the plaintiff would be overwhelmed and unable to clearly present her case, which was weak to begin with. With this image in my mind, it was surprisingly easy to look forward to the day with confidence and then turn my attention to other, more important things.
Enjoy “Hearing” Your Friends Shout Encouragement
What did rehearsing the event get me? At the very least, it set a surprisingly lighthearted tone for the hearing even before we began the proceedings. After our names were called by a hearing officer - whose demeanor said she wouldn't take nonsense from anyone --- we followed her down a long hall, with several turns, before arriving at the large hearing room. As I walked along, I imagined all my friends, two or three dozen strong, were marching right behind me. I almost laughed out loud. What a sight we would have made, striding along like an army marching off to war.
Even more important, once the proceedings began, I am sure that including friends when rehearsing the event was a major factor in helping stop my heart from pounding and my mouth from going overboard in explanations. In the end, it was the plaintiff who was cautioned several times about getting off track. The outcome? The hearing officer threw out the case, saying there was no merit to her position.
I tell this story to encourage you to bring your friends to your next scary appointment. Knowing they can be with you in your imagination (even though they live a thousand miles away) can make a world of difference. Certainly my rehearsal calmed my anxiety BEFORE the event. Then, DURING the hearing, although I couldn't ask my friends to speak on my behalf, I definitely felt the support of a cheering section. AFTER it was over, I realized I had actually enjoyed myself. Of course, winning helped.
May your friends accompany you (in reality and in imagination) throughout those moments of anxiety and worry that are part of every journey through life. And may your friends also celebrate with you in person and in spirit when good things happen.