“I have no idea what she looks like, but that doesn’t stop my mind from filling in the shadowy details,” Maryann said. “We’re struggling to work on repairing our marriage, but I can’t get rid of these pictures in my mind. My husband says I’m focusing too much attention on it and that it’s me making myself miserable. He just doesn’t understand, and I’m hoping for the day where I’ll go a whole 24 hours without having an image of him and her together.”
It’s common, if you are the victim of an affair, to carry around images in your mind. You have probably experienced this excruciating daily exercise in what is often fantasy thinking.
Unfortunately, it is a horror show. Instead of rescuing you, your prince is the demon. Or if you’re a man, the woman of your dreams-the princess-is the demon. Now, you are saddled with a fantasy of the person you love with someone other than you starring opposite the person who was supposed to forever be your sweetheart.
What form are your images taking? Here are some common possibilities:
1. The paramour is physically “perfect” in every way.
2. Your spouse and the paramour laughing over something witty one or the other has said.
3. Images of your spouse and the paramour intimately entwined.
4. The paramour in your home, taking over, possessing your life.
When you haunt yourself with awful images, it’s similar to the person with the toothache who can’t stop pushing on it to make it hurt again. Your awful images probably represent your fear, distrust, and feelings of betrayal, but it could be other concerns, also. So what I’m going to do is give you three steps that will help you eliminate those awful images that have been haunting you.
You see the images begin in your mind, perhaps like a slide show, perhaps one image, perhaps like a movie, or perhaps some other representation. You’re torn: you don’t want these images, and yet, a part of you feels compelled to let them play.
You may experience feelings of disgust, obviously with the spouse who cheated, most certainly with the paramour-and possibly, with yourself. You question why you can’t control this nightmare line-up of images from happening, coming unbidden with all of its ugliness. Even your sleep may be invaded.
Your spouse had the “good time” with the paramour, while you are being tortured and your peace of mind destroyed by images related to the affair. Those haunting images may be pulling you down into a pit of despair you may feel powerless to escape.
When images of the paramour play in your mind, you feel yourself reeling from the impact as you react physically, emotionally and spiritually. Even if the infidelity was a one-time occurrence, you may feel a greater impact from the affair weeks or even months later.
The recurring images can drain you, and then you feel more vulnerable and find the images even more difficult to escape. It’s like emotional quicksand, pulling you down into an abyss from which it becomes more and more difficult to climb out.
Initially, it’s going to take a surge of effort on your part. But step-by-step, you can once again gain back your power over the images in your mind. Here is an exercise to help weaken the power of the fantasies as you strengthen your own inner power:
Step 1: Create a Quiet Zone
To begin to gain control over the images in your mind, schedule a time for them to come to you. This may seem at first counter-intuitive, but you might find it empowering to have control over at least one of these occurrences.
Set aside a period of time that you can sit quietly by yourself without interruption. Find a spot that is secluded, where you feel comfortable and relaxed. This quiet zone will represent both the time and place you have designated as permissible for the images to come forward.
Step 2: Invite the Fantasies In
Once you’re settled into your quiet zone, it’s time to bring to mind those fantasies that are consuming you. Remember, the difference is that you are deliberately inviting them in, so you are leading the exercise.
Let the images come to you in whatever way your mind developed them.
Step 3: Manipulate the Image
When your image of the affair is clear in your mind whether it’s in the form of pictures, or a movie, or something else, you’re ready to play with it.
One way to manipulate the image is to take this elaborate fantasy that you have deliberately created, and play it backwards in your mind. Hit your mental rewind button. Most people find this exercise helpful in beginning to feel better. If it doesn’t do that for you, then stop immediately, and don’t use this exercise.
If it does help you feel even a little better, you can practice it a few times, going faster each time. The repetition will help set the changes in your mind.