From an early age, as children we learn to use a very powerful facet of our conscious mind, which is our imagination. Having an active imagination is actually one of the most enjoyable parts of childhood because of the way it expands our focus. For example, as children most have imagined things like what it’s like to win the Super Bowl by scoring the game winning touchdown, or what it would be like to invent a Time Machine, or how it would feel to be a princess, a movie star or an astronaut. Interestingly, most children don’t just limit their imagination to the “big” or impressive things. An imaginative young child also takes the time to think about seemingly silly things like “What must it feel like to be a bug or a frog, or a bird, or a fish or an elephant…?”
Then as we get older a combination of experience and maturity can cause us to adjust the focus of and limit the scope of our imagination. For sure, most adults can easily still imagine what it would be like to be famous, or rich, or powerful as we often view those dreams as solutions to our immediate personal anxieties. Who hasn’t imagined what it would be like to win the lottery or inherit someone’s huge fortune and estate? However, if we are not careful, we can allow the adult limitations of our “matured” imagination to cause us to forget to imagine the less prestigious things in life. This can be particularly damaging when it comes to forgetting how others who may be less fortunate, less influential or less experienced than us must think and feel. Some examples:
The parent who no longer imagines what it is like to struggle with the seemingly endless challenges and trials of adolescence
The wise, healthy, experienced, or educated person with all the answers, who cannot imagine what it is like to be lost, confused, under-educated or learning disabled
The gifted and fortunate individual faced with abundant choices and opportunities who does not take the time to imagine what it’s like to be needy, limited, poor, or otherwise vulnerable or oppressed.
The person blessed with psychological and emotional stability and support who fails to imagine what it must be like to have to struggle daily with chronic mental illness, addiction and social isolation.
We all need to keep our sense of imagination alive and well in order to practice one of the most essential human interpersonal life skills; which is our ability to try to understand others, particularly those who may be struggling, hurting, suffering or those who are just different than us. Simply put, our imagination is still serving us well if we use it daily to practice Empathy