Q. My little girl is always “imagining” something. “Imagine this… Imagine that… Imagine when… Imagine if…” I told her to stop it and to imagine what she is doing right now. What else can I tell her?

A. Stop imagining? Oh, no! Imagination is a marvelous brain function. Choose what you want to imagine. Yes. Imagine what she is doing right now? Likely impossible. A brain law says that: Only that which is absent can be imagined. If she is doing it right now it is actual reality and cannot be imagined.

Imagination is one of the most powerful brain tools at your disposal. It is yours alone to hone and utilize. The problem is that many human beings use the power of imagination negatively. They worry, are anxious, picture disaster instead of adventure, see failure rather than success, pretend something is really not happening or misidentify what is occurring, and/or ruminate on all the actual or potentially negative consequences without being grateful for the actual or potentially positive outcomes, and so on.

According to de Becker, author of The Gift of Fear (and real fear is a protective emotion and a huge gift) the words anxiety and worry stem from a root meaning “to choke.” That’s exactly what negative imagination does. It chokes you. Real fear is triggered by actual danger while worry and anxiety are triggered by uncertainty. When you are evaluating any potential event, tell yourself the most accurate truth about the event as possible, even if you need to mentally step outside of yourself and try to view the event from the perspective of a neutral third party. Then, giving your brain only two options at a time, select the one that gives you the most positive outcome, identifying and letting go what you will need to give up to attain the positive outcome (remember that you always give up something to get something).

Picturing something in your mind's eye that has a positive outcome, frees your brain to respond, adjust, experience appropriate emotions, accept, prepare, and do whatever is needed. Encourage your child to develop and use imagination in a positive and helpful way.