In a homey cafe, we settle down. We exchange casual chats. The person eventually open up. I listen, ask questions. I leave many brief moments of silence. I have been throug many chats like this. I can helps. I don’t want to rush; I wait for the onion to peel itself.
“I have always wanted to travel. But every time I thought of my family…”
“You thought of your family, and…?”
“Then I imagined them saddened by my decision. They would be depressed without me.”
Now I understand: for her, being a good daughter and being a happy individual are two separate things – either/or. This has been her truth. In her world – like many others’ – family is what stands in between her and her dreams.
I choose to believe differently. Our blockage is never something outside of us; our blockage is always something within us. In this case, that blockage is negative assumption.
I wrote about negative assumption before. Now I feel the urge to revisit this topic. Life is full of paradoxes and one of them is: human’s greatest gift – our imagination – can at once be our gravest inhibitor.
In the case of my friend, she automatically imagines negative consequences of her following her dream. What else? She soon forgets that it is her imagination and assumes it to be true. It is one thing to make a negative assumption. It is another thing to believe in our own assumption. Negative assumption somehow becomes a reality – a reality that is never, even for once, questioned.
“We have been taught to believe that negative equals realistic and positive equals unrealistic.”
If you can see yourself in her story, you are not alone. Countless other people I’ve met suffer from the same inhibition: the habit of making negative assumption. I’ve been fighting this battle myself. This is something so deep-seated we aren’t even aware of it.
The danger of this habit is that we end up believing in this image. Believing in the negative assumption leads to two things.
Firstly, it paralyzes us from expressing ourselves and our dreams. “Too difficult! I can’t do it!” Or, more often: “Too difficult! I will do it later!”
“We don’t put off our life till tomorrow. We put off our life till our dead bed.”
Secondly, it stresses us out. Expecting dangers ahead, we defend. Guard up, armors on, fists tight. We may still move towards our dream. However, we unnecessarily spend so much energy going to war with the world. We stop having fun and start having anxiety. Soon, we altogether forget why we follow our dreams. Hurt and disillusioned, we wonder why the resting place always seems to be over the hill.
What if it doesn’t have to be like this? What if, a better way to walk our journey to our distant goals isn’t fighting with the world but dancing with it?
During one dinner, my parents abruptly informed me that the whole family was visiting our hometown on the following Sunday. They knew that I worked on Sunday but wanted me to arrange regardless. It was important, only once a year couldn’t be missed, and so on. Dad gave me a stern look, expecting me to refuse, and preparing to give me a lesson about family responsibility. His look churned my stomach, but I stopped myself before I barked an objection. It’s never good to say or do anything when I am not at peace. “I will try to arrange,” I replied.
Later, I contemplated this situation with a clear mind. “What do I really want?” It was clear. Visiting the hometown could be nice, but I wanted to honor my commitment. I made my decision. However, I still did not know how to respond to my parents. I imagined them getting angry and disappointed. I imagined a family fight. I felt uneasy. Something inside told me to wait a bit more.
The following afternoon I had a hunch: I had made negative assumption again. The videotape went on and on in my head about how badly things would turn out. Somehow I believed in my inner melodrama.
I grew skeptical. What if this isn’t true?
I began to imagine a completely different scenario: my parents would understand and support me. They might feel slightly disappointed that I missed this trip but they would respect me for honoring my service. They would cherish me for doing what I love. Even more, my decision would be a good reminder for them. Living right is the greatest tribute to those who had come before us, to our loving ancestors, and to my grandmother whom I loved most dearly.
Spending some minutes immersing in this new possibility, I instantly felt better. I wanted to turn this possibility into a reality. I reached for the phone to message my parents: “I will communicate in a way so they understand.”
I explained the situation honestly. I asked that I bought and sent my own offerings with them. I promised to pray in our home shrine in the morning, and to leave work early on the same day. “Because I live right, the ancestors and grandmother will understand.”
I asked myself if I were dad, how I would feel reading these words. At peace. I pressed Send. I had a steady trust that no matter how my parents reacted, I would move through the situation. Not with tightened fists, but with open arms.
Dinner that day happened in a good vibe. My parents were relaxed. They did not mention the hometown trip, though I knew they read my message. This meant they were happy about my request. I am a good daughter and a happy individual all at once.
Imagining positive possibilities does not mean we lie to ourselves. We are simply hacking the system. We are overwriting the programing of our mind. With time, negative assumptions are bound to be replaced with possibilities. Our greatest gift – imagination – will stop shutting us down, and start raising us up.
Be careful not to confuse this with fantasizing big changes without taking actions. Baby steps and big jumps are taken, as the warrior moves towards her dream with zest in her heart, flowers on her hair.