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hypotheticalspeaker's avatar

Do you find it helpful in life to imagine hypothetical scenarios?

Asked by hypotheticalspeaker (36points) March 26th, 2012

Everyday I think to myself about one hypothetical scenario. I think about simple things that happen to people all the time such as my phone dying and being far from my destination. Then I can’t call anyone for a ride all the way to the more complicated and gruesome such as being kidnapped and forced to choose between having a torturous death or someone I love being killed. I play them out hundreds of times through out the day with many alterations. I feel like it helps me because if I’m ever in one of my planned scenarios I will be ready to face it and do what I have to do. Does anyone else do this?

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MilkyWay's avatar

I do that all the time but I don’t think I ever felt it’s going to be helpful to me. I always thought it was my imagination being carried away… kinda like day dreaming.

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

No, life is too complex for me to imagine all the exponentially large possible outcomes. I live one day at a time, and leave the dreaming for more pleasant things like romance or the next play I’ll act or direct.

Trillian's avatar

Asking what I would do with people who don’t exist in a situation that hasn’t happened? No. Too many variables happen in real life that render hypotheticals completely different from the imagined scenario.

WestRiverrat's avatar

The military does this all the time. It helps to prepare you.

marinelife's avatar

No, I would rather spend my time working on my real life problems and issues.

Nullo's avatar

Having a plan to fall back on means that your brain won’t have to come up with one on the fly, letting you focus on other things, and not screwing up the management of the scenario.
We had a family member pass out and hit his head a few months back. Most of the people in the immediate vicinity spent their time running around in a panic. One person called the paramedics, while another, trained in first aid, checked and monitored his vitals and rolled him to the recovery position. In the end there wasn’t much wrong, but only those two people remained collected throughout the ordeal.

Mariah's avatar

Of course it’s always good to imagine what might happen as a consequence of your actions. I think we’d all make a lot of really bad decisions all the time if we didn’t do that at all! But there is a point where it becomes overkill. I know there have been times in my life in which I’ve been wracked with fear because all my actions had terrible potential outcomes that I would agonize over. I’ve learned not to expend so much energy on things that “might” happen. As with most everything in life, moderation is the key, I think.

ddude1116's avatar

I do this; it helps me relax. I also have a tendency to make up life stories for people I pass on the street or see in restaurants, as long as I’ll never see them again.

Earthgirl's avatar

It sounds almost like a game for you! The lighter scenarios at least.
It’s a good way of overcoming phobias. It’s often done to help people deal with aversions also. You get acclimated to the idea of doing something like flying in a plane, giving a speech or encountering a barking dog if you are afraid of these things, but instead of imagining negative outcomes you visualize yourself handling it in a calm effective way. You see yourself the way you want to be and your brain cannot distinguish the imagined experience from a real one. It’s as if you lived it and were successfully dealing with it. In this way you gain confidence and learn to short circuit your stress response. For the same reason I’m not so sure it’s a good thing to sit and imagine hypothetical situations and see negative outcomes in your mind. Limit the imaginary results to happy endings and I think it’s all to the good. Otherwise you may be creating too much stress for yourself. Like I said, your body cannot differentiate between real and imaginary situations.. In both cases you have a stress response. Stress lowers your immunity and makes you more prone to illness.

Of course there are some things you cannot learn to deal with. Your example of a torturous death of a loved one would be one of those cases. I don’t think anyone knows, or would want to know ahead of time what an experience like this is like. To prepare for these things in life I think it might be better to nurture your inner strength in other ways. Think of difficult situations that you handled well in the past to remind yourself that if and when the time comes you will get through it and survive. Have a philosophy in life that gives you a solid base. Like you know where you draw the line with things and you know what helps you to stay strong in the face of adversity.

I like to use fantasy and day dreaming quite a bit. But I don’t think that’s what your talking about here.

Akua's avatar

I do it all the time. Mostly I think it’s anxiety.

Bellatrix's avatar

Of course contingency planning is a useful thing to do and is not an unusual idea. I certainly plan for possible situations arising in my work (what will I do if this or that happens – what steps should I put in place to prevent problems later etc.). Not so much in my personal life. I think my nature is such that I think ahead, but I don’t obsess about things or worry overly about things that haven’t and might never happen.

ZEPHYRA's avatar

Yes, constantly, maybe to the point where I don’t quite know how far back I left reality!

hypotheticalspeaker's avatar

@Earthgirl :) You’re right it kind of is like a game to me and sometimes like a book. I always imagine realistic positive outcomes. Like if a dog is chasing me in a scenario I won’t think… and then a giant hawk comes out of the sky. I’ll think stuff like climb a fence, or grab my hose and spray it with jet in the face.
Only one scenario I’ve ever though of caused me any stress, so I did stop thinking about it.

CaptainHarley's avatar

I run through scenarios in my mind all the time, both for planning purposes and for “practice.” The mind is unable to distinguish between reality and fantasy if the fantasy is imagined in sufficient detail. If there are things you can’t practice at the moment, try imagining them. Take a simple example of playing basketball: imagine your heavy breathing, sweat running down your arms and neck, your hands controlling the ball and how the ball feels as you dribble down the court, how you have to dodge and maneuver, how you stretch when you launch the ball at the basket, the satisfying sound as it swishes through the net. I can virtually guarantee that if you do this, your game will improve, especially when balanced with actual practice. This applies to virtually any skill or behavior.

Sunny2's avatar

I used to. I was a dancer. I was asked to every dance. I was prom queen. I was class president. Now I have very vivid dreams when I sleep and don’t need more imagining than that. I have sufficient real life problems that need facing.

CaptainHarley's avatar


Imagine yourself facing those problems and solving them. : ))

Coloma's avatar

No. You sound rather paranoid and obsessive. Losing your phone might be a frustration but It wouldn’t morph into kidnapping and murder in my mind anyway. lol

Nullo's avatar

As for the phone, yours is the first generation to have lived in a world where cell phones were practically a given. Lose yours, and you’ll cope the old-fashioned way by using other phones. Be sure to keep some numbers memorized, or you really will be sunk.

Traywick's avatar

I do this sometimes. Like when im standing in line at the store. Ill see some guys walk up behind me, and i look around for things i could use to defend myself. I imagine like, sidestepping a punch, and grabbing something close by. Even though i know it would happen a completly different way, its just fun and i dont feel like it would prepare me for a real fight. Also, on long trips, when im driving and see another car driving all crazy, i imagine what i would do if they were to wreck in front of me, or try to swerve into my lane. Just little things i find fun while doing boring things like driving or standing in line. Wasnt sure if anyone else ever did this.

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