Last weekend I took some time to do a little beginning research for the sequel to The Runaway Pastor. Since Trent--the main character in my novel--seems to be dealing with an escape fantasy, I began there. What I discovered was not all that new to me, but the way it came to me was like a formula; like a two plus two equals four. All I'd seen before was a two and another two--without the four.
First, Neuro-psychology teaches us that practiced patterns become ingrained habit. If you play golf or tennis or if you type or drive, you know what it means to be able to do something without really thinking about it. "I could do that in my sleep," we often say. And it is true. Rehearsed patterns become ingrained.
They also become default behaviors. Like a water drop falling down a windshield; once a certain path is cleared, it becomes the easy way...the default pathway for other drops. We don't think about how we type our email address, it just pops out of our fingers. We don't plan to go (or remember going) to the fridge, but we find the ice cream sandwich right there in our hands. The neuron trail has been blazed, and we follow it by habit.
The second truth is that articulately and meticulously imagined actions are indistinguishable from real actions. It is true. Our mind cannot decipher the difference between a real action and a well imagined one. We've heard that before regarding violence in movies and video games. Perhaps we believe it to an extent. However, our mind has the capability of producing much more realistic "movies" than does the movie industry. Our fantasies are more real to us than video representations of reality.
So those two points are "two" and another "two." But the "four" had never accurred to me.
Well imagined actions, which are imagined over and over, become ingrained in our thinking. They form true neurological pathways in our brain, and become default reactions to certain settings. When Jesus said that lusting was indeed adultery, he wasn't kidding. When we read in scripture that "As a man thinks in his heart, so is he," it is mirroring contemporary teaching.
It seems the secular world has a hang-up on pushing fantasies. But what I am reading tells me that fantasies can lead to realities. And realities that we imagine are not nearly as exciting and joy-filled as our imaginations allow us to believe.
Jesus said "The truth will set you free..." Chasing fantasies down pathways of pleasure is not the way to freedom.
People have often asked me how Trent so easily left his wife, church and home. In my mind, he had already dreamed it into reality. I've been asked why Natalie was unfaithful to him. She had fantasized such betrayal over and over. How far do our habitual default responses carry us in our living?
My next research interest? How does one reset/retrain their imaginations and ingrained habits?