A trademark feature of fear and indecision is that you find yourself confronted with the “what ifs.” These are little fear-based characters that come out every time you go to make a decision. You are probably familiar with those characters that live in your mind and vocabulary. They whisper all of the following to you at one time or another and paralyze any forward movement.

  • “What if he/she leaves me?”
  • “What if I get lost?”
  • “What if I am poor?”
  • “What if I lose that job?”
  • “What if I don’t get that job?”
  • “What if I pass out?”
  • “What if I look stupid?”
  • “What if I am laughed at?”
  • “What if I do the wrong thing?”

Does any of this sound familiar? YIKES!

The problem with the “what ifs” is that they are so scary you don’t want to look for the answer.

But let’s take “What if I drive in the wrong direction?” as an example of a question to work through. Well, if you do, you would then get lost. If you are lost, you would call someone and get directions, use your GPS on your mobile or car, look at your map and see where you screwed up or go into a store and ask someone for directions. One of those options will put you back on course. So that is it. Worst case scenario is that you are late to wherever you are going or you do not make it at all. The cell phone takes care of notifying the party involved and you go from there with rescheduling. Not the end of the world by any means, but if you don’t think it all the way through, all you can focus on is the idea that “I am going to get lost and that’s scary.” It is like watching a horror movie and then putting your hands over your eyes at the really scary part.

In real life, you need to look at the scary part in your projections to see if it will really be that scary. You also need to remember that you can create your own ending, with the hero or heroine (you) having a great outcome as opposed to a gruesome one.

When you jump right to the gruesome ending you are using a thinking distortion called Fortune Telling. You have your crystal ball out and you predict your outcome based on very worst case scenario. Your mind tells you then to either prepare for the worst or just don’t do whatever it is at all as you can see the horrific outcome.

You brain may provide many creative details for you on any given “what if”, like a visual of you lying in the street panhandling or being alone and miserable forever. It will conjure up anything really that supports whatever idea you have given it to run with.

What is easily missed is that the outcome is not certain, it is within your control in many instances. And even if the dreaded “what if” happens, it can be changed, corrected, redirected or whatever it takes at that point in time. Life is a path and very rarely is one decision or one action the determining factor for its entirety.

So whatever your “what ifs”, your job is to think:

  1. Yes, that could happen, but so could something else.
  2. If the bad thing happens, I will deal with it then.
  3. I am not alone, everyone experiences fear, it is a process of life.
  4. Indecision is crippling and I won’t grow if I give in to it.
  5. If I make a mistake I will correct it.
  6. If I am going to use a crystal ball I will only allow myself to see and focus on success, not horror stories.

This is not an unusual phenomenon at all and it can be easily managed with the right emotional toolkit. If you feel that the “what ifs” are having an adverse affect on your life today, please visit our resource page and get your copy of “How to Break Free from 12 Dysfunctional Thought Patterns … and a handy chart to help you track your progress”.

To learn more about how dysfunctional thinking patterns arise, how they affect you and how to recover from them, see Psychskills.com and the book, Dysfunction Interrupted-How to Quickly Overcome Depression, Anxiety and Anger Starting Now.

Feel Good For Life!!

First published on Psychcentral.com by Audrey Sherman
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