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Anticipating Bad News?

Many of us have become accustomed to thinking of the worst case scenarios and fixating on the "what ifs." We are constantly bombarded with negative and stress-inducing media stories. While certain professions like surgeons, pilots, and engineers are trained to anticipate the worst situations in order to make necessary and life-saving corrections, when most of us anticipate bad outcomes, the results are unwarranted worry and anxiety. When we imagine poor outcomes we may think we are preparing ourselves but the projected result often doesn't materialize. Of course bad things do happen in life regardless of whether we anticipate them or not. Control often is at the root of our need to protect ourselves from bad situations. Our negative thinking sets the ball in motion and it gains speed as it rolls downhill. Negative thoughts tend to be contagious and typically become more destructive and irrational over time. Many seek stability and security by seeking to control every aspect of life.

If you grew up in a household where you had no control over anything, you may have vowed to never be in that situation again. Or maybe something traumatic occurred that you couldn't prevent from happening and that motivated you to seek control. Sometimes we fear reliving pain from the past and control becomes our protector. We may convince ourselves that if we are in control something bad won't happen. In fact, people falsely believe that they are less likely to be in a car accident if they're driving. Unfortunately, living with worry and needing to be in control over much of life is damaging both physically and psychologically. Control can also damage relationships since most of us don't like to be micromanaged or told what to do. We tend to resent those that try to fix our problems even if they are good intentioned especially if we didn't ask for help. Sometimes when we step in to take charge our partner feels undermined and completely discounted. We need to ask others before assuming they want our help.

As we've discussed previously, we live in an uncertain and unpredictable world which heightens our need for control. Reframing our thoughts can be powerful as can accepting that we can't change every circumstance. Focusing on our strengths, abilities, and resilience from past conflicts and stress can build our resolve. Instead of dwelling on the negative, how about spending time generating a list of possible good outcomes and positive possibilities? We can also limit the amount of time and thought we give to anticipating bad outcomes. If we spend 5-10 minutes on what could go wrong spend at least an equivalent amount of time on what could go right. Be reminded of the serenity prayer: "God grant us the serenity of mind to accept that which cannot be changed; courage to change that which can be changed, and wisdom to know the one from the other." Think about where you want your focus to be and choose wisely.

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