Thursday, November 17

When the Imaginary Rejections are Getting Ridiculous

The movie trailer begins by panning in on the brunette star's furrowed brow as the voice-over, in his rich, movie trailer-y voice says,

"Amanda doesn't have imaginary friends. No, she imagines her real friends despise her and think she's perfectly ridiculous and talentless. She believes what she imagines and has the ability to have a really, really bad day based on how sad her false assumptions have made her. She's not Wonder Woman, she's I Wonder Why She Doesn't Just Stop It Woman. She's loved, treasured, and strong yet is taken down by a single made-up thought." 

Please excuse me while I go hide because this is my real life.

The moment was telling when I told Jeremy I was writing about women being professionals at making up pretend rejections. This man of mine, who isn't big into explaining events and ideas with as much detail as I'd *prefer*, sat right down at the table where I was working and began a lengthy discussion about lies we tell ourselves and the crazy we allow to haunt us when we believe them. He confessed it's not just a female issue. Men do it to.

So it's not just a female issue, but is it a you issue?

Let's do a little test to see if you fall into this rather "imaginative" category like I do. Do any of these scenarios describe how you might respond?

You've made a new friend you think you'll really be able to connect with and who really seems to be interested in friendship. But instead of playing it cool, you start assuming she thinks you're too much before you even get past the first conversation. You shouldn't have said that, or laughed like that, or bombarded her with so much information so soon. She's right, you are too much.

Hmm. How about this one?

Someone has invited you to work with them on a project you're excited about. You happily say yes, submit your first piece of work, and wait for some feedback. The response time is slow, longer than you imagine she needed to look over your work, so you immediately decide she's changed her mind about working with you and regrets involving you in the first place.

Oh, yes. And this one? 

All of the sudden, your husband seems to be more than okay with you occasionally going out with the girls, leaving the house to get some work done at a coffee shop, and going on a trip across the country to a conference you're dreaming of attending. "He's happy I'm leaving," you say, "he must be cheating on me in some way." 

Are we sounding like the same person yet? 

I'll have you know these are three of my very own crazy-lady examples. I'm the one who's been hypersensitive, irrational, and nervous more times than I care to count and who has shed real tears about made-up stories I've told myself. What is going on here? 

Imaginary rejections take up more space in my mind than they were ever meant to. I say "more space", but imagining people are rejecting us shouldn't take up any space in our thought life.

Before we get too far and dissect our tendencies to jump to the negative about ourselves, can I just tell you my assumptions in the above examples turned out to be completely false?

In the new friend example, though I've never actually asked a new friend if they thought I was too much, any amount of rational thought would assure me she is thinking about me far less than I'm thinking about myself. We are a self-consumed people assuming others have us on the brain constantly. This simply isn't true. Are you sitting around thinking about that new friend you met and how quirky she was? Probably not. See?

In the friend inviting me to work with them example, I eventually checked in to see if she had any news or feedback for me, and she said she wished she did! Things were just moving slowly. Instead of accepting that things move slowly sometimes, I jumped right to rejection. I was wrong. Everything was fine.

And finally in the eager husband example, I'm always wrong when I jump to conclusions about Jeremy being suspiciously supportive of me being out of the house alone on rare occasion. For goodness sakes, Jeremy loves to see me thrive, he loves to see me come alive, and he knows some of the activities he encourages do those things for me. All love, no unfaithfulness.

So if we come to our senses realizing our imaginary rejections are off-base a majority of the time, why do we continue in this cycle? I'm not a professional in this field, but I can tell you what I do know from my own experience.

We do this for many reasons:

*we've been rejected in real life and are hypersensitive and fearful it will happen again

*we don't feel worthy of actual acceptance

*we're insecure about new situations and relationships therefore imagine all thoughts about us are of the negative nature

*we've rejected ourselves and imagine everyone else will as well

*we don't trust the outcome and timing in which God will provide whatever we're hoping for

*we control more than we rest

This is a tricky and well-ingrained pattern of thought we've gotten ourselves into, isn't it? It's not exactly fixable by just willing ourselves to stop. As I've become more aware of my horrible patterns of thought, and what it does to my outlook and attitudes, I've become keenly aware of the work it takes to fix it. We need re-training. We need repetition. We need the Truth.

The phrase that keeps coming to mind is "take every thought captive."

It comes from 2 Corinthians 10:5. This verse in Paul's second letter to the church at Corinth, in its entirety, says,

"We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ." 

All of our speculation and pondering must be judged in light of God's truth, not our fickle feelings and assumptions about a situation.

Take every thought captive. But how?

I'm a visual person, and this isn't a perfect practice, but I've been figuratively "capturing" the thoughts that are not in line with God's truth about me and setting them out of the way, out of reach and then leaving them there while asking God to give me right and true thoughts about myself and my situation.

It takes such focus to do this. I have to be in tune with what's sounding false. Sometimes I don't even notice. I believe it's true before testing it.

It might always be a temptation for us to dwell on untruths in this way, but it doesn't mean we will always be falling for it.

The enemy might be persistent at getting to us through our fragile thought life, but that doesn't mean he has to win. We might be fragile here, but that doesn't mean we're defeated.

The one thing I think we know for sure is that our runaway imaginings are getting ridiculous. We can laugh at ourselves in the most humble way and admit we're absolutely wrong when we jump to conclusions.

People don't hate us. We're not driving everyone nuts. We aren't being betrayed at every turn. We're not too much.

We're a work in progress. A very imaginative one at that.