When I invite clients to imagine the future they long for, they sometimes become flooded with feelings of overwhelm or draw a blank. When I inquire deeper, these clients often share experiences of trauma, such as being laid off from a previous job or neglected as a child. (We’ll talk more about trauma in Chapter 10.)

If someone or something let you down in the past or you or your loved ones suffered a devastating loss, it can feel painful to imagine a better future. Instead, you might anticipate disaster, and you might stop yourself from revealing your desires to others or even yourself.

In Emergent Strategy, adrienne maree brown writes:

“Imagination is one of the spoils of colonization, which in many ways is claiming who gets to imagine the future for a given geography. Losing our imagination is a symptom of trauma.

Reclaiming the right to dream the future, strengthening the muscle to imagine together as Black people, is a revolutionary decolonizing activity.”[1]

If you experience feelings of grief or overwhelm when trying to envision your next horizon, please turn toward yourself with love and kindness and don’t force yourself to imagine. Take a break and tend to your body’s needs. Then, place the question: What might the future I long for look like? in the pot on the backburner of your mind. Allow the question to percolate, and notice what bubbles up.

When you’re ready to return to the practice, I invite you to keep this in mind: Go for the what before trying to figure out the how. Trying to figure out how we’ll reach our vision before allowing ourselves to articulate our vision in the first place is like trying to get directions before choosing a destination. It can limit our imagination and hold us back from reaching what we want. When we’re honest with ourselves about the future we long for, it can become easier to figure out how we’ll get there.[2]

[1] Emergent Strategy

[2] We’ll talk more about reclaiming your relationship with desire in Chapter 6.

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