By George A. Boyd ©2023
Q: I have read about the idea of working with my future self to overcome my current problems and gain a glimpse of a path forward for my life. Is this a viable strategy, or am I just deluding myself?
A There are seven major visualization mindsets for the future that people adopt. We can describe them and discuss their implications for successfully dealing with life issues—or not dealing with them, and getting lost instead on fear, rage, projection, and delusion. Here are the seven major future visualization mindsets:
- Planned future self – You make a decision about what you are going to do. You identify the steps you need to take to reach that objective. You do each sequential behavior required until you reach this goal. In this perspective on the future, you are clear about what you want in your future, and you take constructive action to achieve it.
- Idealized future self – You imagine your future self as having overcome any problems you are having, and it can advise you on how to overcome them. This type of visualization of your future self is used in psychotherapy and hypnotherapy to help you make positive behavior and attitude changes.
- Fear-projected future self – Here, you cannot see any positive outcomes in your future and you worry about the bad things that might happen to you. This type of envisioning of your future self is associated with severe anxiety and depression.
- Anger-projected future self – In this mindset, memories of people who hurt you or traumatized consume you—whether these events actually occurred or you believe misinformation about these people. You obsess about how you will destroy them and get your revenge for them hurting you. This vision of the future is associated with acts of violence and hateful attitudes towards others that you believe injured you or persecuted you, or who are vitiating what you hold dear or sacred.
- Negative transmogrification – In this scenario, you see yourself deteriorating and becoming a subhuman monster or completely non-functional. This picture of your future self is associated with psychosis or degenerative neurological diseases. You anticipate the future with dread and horror.
- Positive transmogrification – In this lens on your future, you visualize your body becoming filled with light, and you believe you will become so pure you will bodily ascend into heaven. New Age teachers disseminate this miraculous future vision of yourself, which is associated with beliefs about ascension, operating from a fifth dimensional platform, and instantly manifesting whatever you desire.
- Developmental future self – In this way of seeing your future, you recognize your body-mind matures over time, and you meet a new set of developmental challenges as you move into each new segment of your life. Erik Erikson’s theory on each developmental stage describes these life segments and the challenges you will face in them. In this way of looking at the future, you deal with your current issues. You learn the lessons of these problems: you master them and move on to the next set of developmental milestones. You can get an intuition of the challenges that await you in the future as you mature; however, you focus on overcoming the current concerns that you are dealing with in your life.
You may find that you operate in one of these modes of envisioning your future self. Three of these modes lead to achievement, acceptance and patience, and reception of guidance about how you can move into actualizing your dreams:
Scenario one is realistic, and enhances your ability to take responsibility and achieve the goals you set for yourself.
Scenario two can be therapeutic and can help you change if your visualized future self has some genuine wisdom and guidance to share with you—and this future self with whom you dialog is indeed wiser, more masterful, and more mature than you are now.
Scenario seven gives you a roadmap of the actual steps of growth you will make in your life, as you mature, provided you overcome the challenges of each stage of your life.
Four of these modes of visualization of your future can generate greater suffering, more problems and entanglements, despair and hopelessness, and delusion:
Scenarios three, four, and five are negative visualizations of the future that are associated with the emotions of fear and worry, anger, and horror. If it is possible for you to shift into the perspective of scenarios one, two or seven, you may find you are able to better manage your current issues more effectively—instead of inhabiting very primitive and ineffective mindsets that give rise to worry and anxiety, depression, hatred and violence, or horror and dread.
Scenario six is predicated upon utopian fantasies, which are rarely realized in your life. These visions arise from imagination: they assume that supernatural forces will manifest miraculous things in your life. This worldview presumes you are a god-like being who can create anything you want in your future. These fanciful visions of manifestations are often founded upon you taking the steps to actually achieve what you desire; in this mindset, however, it appears to you that this is a supernatural creation.
This magical mindset appears to work sometimes; at other times, it leads to disappointment and motivates you to question how you are blocking or sabotaging the manifestation of the elements of the idealized future you desire.
In general, it is best to use constructive action; and to have the patience to recognize that once you master your current life challenges, you will have greater wisdom, ability, and understanding to share with others—and you will function at a higher level in your life. Additionally, if you visualize a wiser and better self in your future, you can listen to its counsel to guide you in the next steps for your life.
If you adopt visualization mindset six, we recommend you verify whether your practice of intentional manifestation is actually working, so you may not delude yourself with magical thinking.