You are upset with a friend who has done something to you that feels so wrong. You haven’t talked with him yet about the situation and are unsure of what you’re going to tell him. What do you do? You rehearse the conversation in your mind.
The rehearsal gets played out in a variety of ways. In one scenario, you demonstrate how angry you are by coming up with the perfect zinger, telling yourself “that will show him”. Or you apply a guilt-provoking statement so that he can feel really bad about what he did. Or you attempt to play diplomat and appear reasonable.
These rehearsals can get quite elaborate, depending on the situation and how many scenarios you play out in your mind. You may even do the dialogue for your friend, after all, he’s not around physically to play the part – so you start imagining what he’s going to tell you in response.
Sounds silly doesn’t it? However everyone I’ve ever known including myself has done this behavior. What’s the problem? The problem is that the real conversation has not even taken place yet and depending on how long you’ve sat in this emotional stew, your anxiety and emotional states are likely heightened. The brain and body do not distinguish the difference between a real or imagined conversation – the same emotional triggers can and do occur either way.
Did you ever do this and then discover the real interaction was nothing like the imagined one? I have found myself really furious with someone in my mind and then when I have the actual conversation, I find out details I was not aware of, which then alters my thinking and my understanding of the situation.
As much as we might believe a rehearsal will be helpful, it’s even more helpful to free our minds. Just imagine what you could do with the free time.
“To rehearse imaginary conversations on page is called literature. To do so out loud is called madness.” – Philip Sington