While walking through Costco, I noticed the large bin of photographs that had been processed and were waiting for customers to pick up. There were probably a couple of hundred packets listed alphabetically according to customers’ names. I was struck by the fact that all of these personal bags of photos were just sitting out in the open, to be purchased on the honor system. Anyone could have stolen any of them, or taken someone else’s package and paid for it as their own.

Then it occurred to me that this system works because no one really wants to take someone else’s photos home. Who wants to see Joshua Bernstein’s Bar Mitzvah pictures? Or little Ashleigh in her high chair with goopy baby food dripping from her lips? Or the Hendersons’ motor home vacation to Florida? No, no one really wants to take anyone else’s pictures home.

Yet on a psychological level, we do this all the time ¾ and live to regret it. The photos we erroneously purchase are other people’s pictures of reality. We adopt our parents’ model of relationship; our mother’s fears about money; our older brother’s attitude about sex; our minister’s relationship with God; our teacher’s opinion about politics; and on, and on. And we pay dearly for them. Most people’s pictures of reality are fear-based and limiting, and do not serve us. Yet we take them home and replicate them in our own lives, to the point that we believe they’re our own. Then, if we are not careful, we pass them on to our children. Then we wonder why we and the people we know are so unhappy. All because we accepted and paid for boring or unhappy pictures that never belonged to us in the first place.

Contrary to what you have been taught, the reality you live in is a choice. You generate reality by the images you focus on. The more you pay attention to any picture of reality, the more real it becomes to you. You can create and live in vast worlds simply by thinking they are real. This does not mean they are real; it just means you have given them a great deal of attention and belief.

A classic story tells of a man who went to visit a friend in his country home. In the middle of the night, the man got up to go to the bathroom and found a huge deadly snake coiled up on the floor, ready to strike him. The next morning the host awoke to find his guest dead on the floor, lying next to a coiled up piece of large rope. The fellow died not of a snakebite, but of fright. He was just as dead as if the snake had been real. His murderer was not a snake; it was his own mind.

This parable applies to every fear we experience. Enlightened teachers tell us that nothing we fear is real at all; the objects we fear exist only in our imagination. The word “fear” is an acronym for “false evidence appearing real.” A Course in Miracles poignantly adds, “You can indeed afford to laugh at fear thoughts, remembering that God goes with you wherever you go.”

In a world where many people are afraid, and reinforce their fear by attacking the objects of their fear, you can bring significant healing by remaining sane and recognizing perceived snakes as actual ropes. Nothing can hurt you unless you give it power with your thoughts. When you remember the presence of love in a situation where others have forgotten it, you are returning unwanted photos back to their bin, and taking your own home.

The critical voice is not your own. Your were not born with thoughts of judgment, lack, and separateness. They are all learned — and can be unlearned. Children and animals are our greatest teachers because they have not yet passed the photo department and taken home other people’s yucky albums. Children are connected to God and have not been taught otherwise. Thank God for children, animals, and nature; they are our lifeline to Original Innocence.

A five-year-old boy observed his parents bringing his newborn younger brother home from the hospital. For days he pestered his parents to let him be alone with his little brother. Fearing the older child would hurt the infant, the parents resisted. But the boy persisted. Finally the parents gave in, and hooked up an intercom in the baby’s room so they could monitor any potential disturbance. Instead, they heard the older brother close the door behind him, gently approach the baby’s crib, lean over, look into the infant’s eyes, and speak these words: “Would you please tell me about God? I’m starting to forget.”

At this time of year we celebrate the holidays of Easter and Passover — both powerful lessons in letting go of the old and limiting so we can step into a life of greater freedom and aliveness. In essence, both Jesus and the Hebrew nation returned unwanted photos to the bin, and took home their own instead. In doing so, they set the stage for us to do the same. Those dark pictures never belonged to you anyway. You have your own and better to enjoy.

By Alan Cohen


  • Alan Cohen is the author of many popular inspirational books, including the best-selling Why Your Life Sucks and What You Can Do About It, the award-winning A Deep Breath of Life and his newest is the prosperity guide Relax into Wealth.

    Alan is an Empowering Caregivers featured expert, learn more about Alan

    Or visit his website at: alancohen.com.