Moving From Distraction To Direction
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High, gauzy stratus clouds stretched thinly across an azure sky. My husband cracked the seal on a chilled Corona and passed it to me. The surf undulated in a soothing rhythm. The sweet smell of the salt marsh drifted up from the south. To the north, gray ocean and blue sky back-dropped ships carrying colorful, rectangular patterns of cargo in and out of the mouth of the Savannah River. By any standard, it was a perfect day at the beach.
But wishful thinking obscured the panoramic view. I wished out loud that my husband had thought to bring some lime slices. He wished out loud that I was wearing a bikini. We both wished we had a radio and an umbrella and that the kids would quit kicking up sand and that the seagulls would leave our little picnic.
Then our children, sitting on towels in the sun eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and apples, looked to the right. The family closest to us had a beach wagon in which they had hauled a large tent and several chairs and a big cooler. Two folding tables covered with cleverly weighted table cloths displayed a smorgasbord of treats. Flags waved joyfully from the pole they’d sunk in the sand.
“That’s the set up,” said my oldest son.
“Yeah, I wish we had all that,” someone else mumbled to a chorus of mm-hms.
A wave of shame washed over me. There we were on our vacation and all we could talk about was what we didn’t have. On that beautiful, irreplaceable summer day we were wishing ourselves into a state of discontent. We had everything we needed and it wasn’t enough.
The Negatives of Wishful Thinking
As Sallie Felton, a practicing life coach in Hamilton, Mass., and co-author of Stepping Stones to Success With Deepak Chopra, says, “You can become a victim of wishful thinking.”
As a form of rumination, it creates a well of deficit from which unhappiness bubbles to the surface.
Persistent wishes or hopes may lead to a feeling of helplessness; a person decides that not only is her situation inadequate in some key aspect, but also that she has no control over changing it.
“Wishful thinking that is based in deficit thinking and then supported by rumination can turn into a downward spiral of negativity, which, if left unexamined, can sap energy and spirit and eventually leech into other family interactions that have nothing to do with the original wish,” agrees Gretchen Pisano, master certified coach and owner of Sounding Board Ink in Frederick, Md. In sum, a consistent focus on and yearning for what one lacks obscures the appreciation of all that he actually has. It keeps a person from enjoying the present moment.
Wishful thinking may begin as an attempt to escape reality.
“The triggers are usually situations that make us uncomfortable or unhappy and rather than deal with those situations head-on it’s easier to think about something else that makes us feel happier,” says Rev. Dr. Lynda D. Sims, who is a professional life coach and owner of New Wave Life Coaching in Martinez. Unfortunately, it’s sometimes difficult to return to reality. People get stuck in a place of dissatisfaction and want—a prison created in one’s own mind, walled off from the people and things that are really important.