My previous post introduced the similarity between Canadian Quarters and “What-ifs.” If you haven’t already…Go back and read it. NOW!
Like Canadian Quarters, what-ifs seem like the real-deal, but they’re not. They are based on real-life, staffed by a cast of characters, scenes and situations that actually exist, so it is easy to perceive them as true. In reality, they are a negatively skewed imagining of potential events.
Rumination on what-ifs is a “mindless response,” it is mental autopilot. People, being goal oriented “fixer’s,” tend to take focus off the present with intent of controlling the future. This is tail chasing; the future can’t be predicted or controlled. The brain’s attempt to pave the way only finds and endless array of potential pitfalls to scrutinize. This has harmful effects as the downward spiral causes the fight or flight system in the body to activate.
What ifs water and nurture anxiety. One is in constant worry about things that are days, weeks, and months away. There is continuous fretting over things that haven’t and most likely won’t happen. The body is reacting to a self-made, false reality – a phantom
It is possible to stop thinking about upcoming life events and exploring all the things that will go wrong. It is possible to choose a “mindful” response.
Mark Twain said: “I’ve had a lot of worries in my life, most of which never happened.”
Bring thinking to the present moment.
What is happening now?
What is being felt now?
I challenge you to practice bringing the mind to the present every time you start to fret, overthink and explore worst case scenarios. As the solution, it takes repetition.
When the mindless mind wins and wanders back to the future (which it will sometimes), why not think of all the things that will go well?
Where one’s thoughts go is a choice. Choose well.
There is no need to explore every negative angle of a possible interaction, conversation, or situation. Things never manifest themselves as awfully as they are imagined.
For those that awfulize by talking themselves out of things because of the negative potential and/or convince themselves people places and things are universally bad, I have some advice:
- Carry no perceived notions about future events. Just show up. You are competent, and capable enough to handle whatever comes at you. So far, it has worked every time, nothing that you have ever what-iffed has been as bad you imagined. Nothing that you fretted over has killed you yet. It won’t this time either.
- When you catch yourself what-iffing, challenge the thoughts with their polar opposite. If you’re trying to convince yourself that something awful will happen, learn to create an argument that something glorious might. It takes practice and intention, but it is possible.
- Remember that what-if’s and anxiety are future driven. Bring thoughts back to the present.
Get on with it!