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Some of our most despondent moods are caused by failures of the imagination. Imagination here is the power to envision alternatives. When we're sad, we can't imagine finding other work. We can't imagine getting by in a wheelchair. We can't imagine having to make a new set of friends.
With sufficient imagination, we can find possible solutions. If Plan A has failed, we can look to Plan B or C.
As grown-ups, we have choices. We are not small children where we have to depend on our parents for everything.
We could work as a bus conductor or retrain as a psychotherapist. We could volunteer in an emergency shelter. We can throw ourselves into learning a new language or take a university degree. We can look up old and trusted friends or make new friends.
To increase our chances of fulfillment, we need to feed our imagination and provide them with endless examples of alternative narratives, so they are more able to come up with plan Bs. We should practice to picture better ways to be.
As part of creative classes, adolescents should be asked to produce narratives like: If I lost everything and had to start up again, I will... They should be asked to make a list of 20 things that currently make life meaningful, then have to cross them all off and find ten more.
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Love is critical to help us keep faith with life and rescue us from severe mental illness.
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When we are sick in our minds, we have this punishing sense of how terrible we are, even if we often can't point to a specific crime. We are appalled by, and unforgiving of, who we are.
In this situation, a loving companion can make all the difference. They don't try to persuade us of our worth. They make pleasant conversation about something that won't make us anxious. They can tolerate how ill we are and will stick by us. They love us for who we are rather than what we do.
Patronising pity can make the attention of others oppressive.
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What is needed for our attention is the love of what is crooked, damaged, and self-disgusted. Here love is the effort required to imagine oneself into the life of another person who has not made it easy to admire or like them.