Anxious people can become consumed with the helplessness they feel in a what-if world. In a what-if world, disasters wait around every corner. In a what-if world, the person feels like a piece of flotsam on a vast, turbulent ocean, tossed about by the winds of misfortune, drowning in a sea of misery. A person in a what-if world feels like a helpless victim of circumstance. But in any given circumstance, are you really helpless?
You may need to ask yourself, If the thing I fear were to happen, what could I do? This allows you to turn a what-if into an if-what.
A what-if worldview concentrates on what isn’t possible. An if-what worldview concentrates on what is possible. Say, for example, you’re anxious about losing your job. You look over the facts, such as your last several evaluations, and calculate the odds of being let go. Even though your reviews were good and the odds of being fired are small, the size of your fear about losing your job just keeps overshadowing your objectivity. But ask yourself, If I did lose my job, what could I do?
Anxiety says that losing your job is the sky falling. But does it have to be? Subjectively, you may want to say yes, but objectively the truth is no. There are plenty of examples of people who lost jobs and found new jobs, even jobs they like better. People who have lost jobs have gone on to discover new interests, new careers. A job loss has led to uncovering new talents and new priorities.
Moving from subjective to objective means asking yourself some questions (What are the odds? What are the facts? If what I fear were to happen, what could I do?), instead of taking everything you’re telling yourself for granted.
Practice moving from subjective responses to objective responses by writing your responses to these three questions:
- What is my current fear?
- What is the likelihood of it happening based on the facts?
- If this were to happen, what could I do?
How you look at life matters. There is a huge difference between looking at life objectively and looking at life subjectively. Looking at life objectively can starve the monster, while looking at life subjectively can feed the monster.