Today I’m going to describe an incident that I feel deeply embarrassed about sharing.I haven’t even told this story to my wife – it is just way too insane. I’m going to admit to this experience because it so perfectly highlights how my thinking tricks me into feeling unnecessary pain. It is an extreme example but maybe you guys have experienced something similar.
Daydreaming on the Beach about the Lottery
Two Saturdays ago, while walking on the beach here in Rayong, I began to daydream. I imagined my mother winning 2 million Euros on the national lottery and offering me one quarter of it. I began to plan how I would spend this windfall. I’ve been struggling financially for the last few months, so it would be a huge relief to get this type of news. I knew that the chances of this scenario coming true must be pretty close to zero – I don’t even know if my mother does the lottery these days – but it felt like a virus had infected my brain, and I couldn’t stop thinking about it.
I’m prone to intense daydreaming. I like to think of it is a sign of creativity, but this may be an overly optimistic view of the situation. I’ve had this lottery daydream before, and it always occurs during a time of financial insecurity. I never dream of winning the prize myself. One reason is that I once heard an economics lecturer refer to it as ‘idiot tax’ so I enjoy a sense of superiority by not playing it. I also hate the idea of being in the spotlight as a winner as this would attract strangers looking for handouts.
My typical daydreams only last a few minutes, but this time I was still thinking about the lottery win when I got home from my walk. I actually sat down with pen and paper (well, iPad and stylus) and began calculating exactly how this money would change my life. I figured that even after we had bought a fancy new house and, and sent Timmy to an international school, there would be enough money left for me to stop working for 8 years. I would be able to quit writing for other people and focus 100% on my blog – it would be fantastic. Of course, I’d take a month off work for a well-deserved rest first. Oh yeah, and I’d begin para-motoring lessons right away. This fantasizing still felt like harmless fun.
Lottery Winning Calculations
It was getting close to my bedtime, and I was still playing around with my lottery winning calculations. I was getting a bit grumpy because I realized that the 500,000 Euros my mother might send me probably wouldn’t be enough to achieve all of my goals. I then decided that I’d been going about things completely the wrong way. I checked the Irish Lottery website and discovered that this week’s payout was over 5 million Euros. This changed everything – I now had well over a million to play with.
I couldn’t get to sleep that night. I kept on visiting car websites – I decided to buy the Toyota 4Runner – and the Apple Store – I would purchase the iMac and a MacBook Air. I felt myself getting more and more excited, and the logical part of my brain could only look on in bemusement. I imagined that my mother would probably ring me at 4am in the morning with the good news. I wouldn’t mind getting woken up – in fact, I didn’t have to mind because I was still awake when 4am came. My mind was buzzing like it was soaked in amphetamine – I dread to think what would have happened if I had actually bought a lottery ticket.
After the Lottery Comes the Depression
All the time, I knew that my daydream was completely ridiculous, but I still felt a huge sense of loss the next day. Part of it was that I felt so tired from lack of sleep, but it was also the feeling that I’d been cheated out of something. I didn’t realize how much I needed this lottery win until I started to dream about it so intently. It moved the goal posts in my life and everything around me seemed to be less as a result. The car I’d bought new a few years ago no longer seemed so attractive, and my two-year-old desktop computer, which has served me well, now looked to be a piece of junk. This silly daydream had left me with a miserable hangover.
I now see that all of my depression and anxiety occurs due to unrealistic expectations of reality. My dissatisfaction with life has nothing to do with reality – just the picture I have of how reality should be. My usual path into depression is a great deal more subtle than this example, but the process is just the same. My unrealistic expectations slap into the wall of reality, and I end up feeling cheated and disillusioned.
I’ve Just Blown My Chance of Benefiting from a Lottery Win
I feel reluctant to share this post for a number of reasons. Not only am I embarrassed by how crazy my thinking can be, but there is a sense that sharing this story is somehow crossing a line. Maybe there was still a slim chance that this lottery dream story could come true, but I’ve now greatly increased the chances that it won’t happen. Receiving money from a mother who has won the lottery is within the realms of possibility, but for this to happen after I’ve shared this experience on here would be entering the realms of the supernatural – maybe I should have kept my big mouth shut.
The truth is that a lottery win would provide a quick fix for my financial problems, but I doubt it would make me happy. I prefer to earn my money, and I know that I’d never feel comfortable about living the good life with cash I hadn’t earned. Maybe this is more magical thinking, or possibly even cognitive dissonance, but I view lottery wins as ‘bad luck money’.