Somewhere down the line, I developed a terrible habit.
I somehow pieced together a belief that things never play out how you think they will — neither your fantasies nor your greatest fears are very likely to actually happen, and even if you try to predict how an event will unfold, it’s never one hundred percent how you imagined it. My thought process was, if I imagine something happening, then it won’t happen — so I’ll start imagining all the things I don’t want to happen, to prevent those things from happening.
I put this concept into practice a lot. If I was nervous about something, I would just imagine all the terrible ways it could go. What if someone called me right now, telling me my sister had died? What if the guy I liked actually never wanted to speak to me again? What if that conversation I needed to have with a coworker actually spun out of control and I lose my job? And so on, and so forth. So by running the worst case scenarios through my head, I was somehow ensuring that they wouldn’t come true.
And for the most part, it worked: my fears rarely did come true. And if they did, well, then, I just wasn’t imagining them hard enough. And that was the thing: it began to be my fault that those things happened.
I was a kid then. I eventually (way later than any normal human being) realized how unhealthy that logic was. So I tried to stop playing that game. I grew up a little bit.
But unfortunately, the habit was formed. I had thought these negative things for so long — even if they were meant to spur on positivity — that I really started to do a number on my psyche. I began to think terrible things impulsively; my technique to combat my anxiety was suddenly fueling my anxiety. And I began to assume all the time that bad things were my fault. Even after I understood that, yes, that logic was so screwed up and not accurate at all, I couldn’t break that mindset.
Not only that, but I began to never want to say things out loud. Under the terms of my terrible logic, saying things out loud was even worse than thinking them. If, for example, I had romantic feelings for someone — or if I thought someone was mad at me — or if I was mad at someone — I would bottle those feelings up (or, more often than not, just not validate them altogether and pretend they didn’t exist). Addressing those feelings out loud was just admitting to wanting something that would never happen.
And so I am working to take control of my thoughts. If I can imagine a worst-case scenario, I can also imagine a best-case scenario. And what’s more, I can take myself out of the equation, and throw that scenario up on the wall and look at it, and focus on the most realistic scenario.
And I will admit that, yes, worst case scenarios do happen occasionally. But what makes a worst case scenario even worse is blaming yourself for its entirety. Because I don’t have control over the world around me. And that’s actually not such a bad thing.