Saturday, March 24, 2012

Fear vs. Reality

Fear vs. Reality

A man needed to cut his lawn, but his lawnmower wasn't working, so he decided to borrow his neighbor's lawnmower. As he walked over to his neighbor’s house, he thought about all the favors he'd done for his neighbor over the years, and went over all the "what if he doesn't lend it to me?" scenarios in his head. “What if he says “no?” “What if he tells me I have to rent the lawnmower?” “What if….” By the time he got to his neighbor's front steps, he'd convinced himself the neighbor wouldn't lend him the lawnmower - despite all the favors he'd done for him over the years! By the time he rang the doorbell, he'd worked himself up to a full boil. When his neighbor answered the door, he shouted, “You can shove your lawnmower, for all I care!" and stomped away in a huff. The neighbor just blinked in confusion, wondering what had just happened.

This joke highlights how people can have very real feelings about something that has not (and may not) actually happened. “What if” is about fear, about speculating that punishment, rejection or deprivation lies ahead, as in the joke, and in following examples:

What if I gain five pounds after eating that cookie/sandwich/soup/banana/cake?
What if I go out with that guy and he turns out to be a complete jerk?
What if I ask someone out on a date and she rejects me?
What if I ask my boss for a raise and she gets mad?
What if I make a mistake and get fired?
What if I'm making the wrong choice?
What if I say the wrong thing?

When you have here-and-now emotions about future events, you may turn to, or from, food, to distract, numb, or soothe yourself. This kind of thinking also creates a heightened sense of powerlessness, since you have no actual power over these future fantasies, since they do not actually exist. Powerless may facilitate a greater sense of anxiety, which often leads to disordered eating, since you may replace anxiety about the future event with anxiety about weight, calories, and so forth.

In contrast, “what is” is about reality. When you are grounded in what is actually happening, or what you know to be true, you are less likely to feel anxious, worried or upset.

What if = fear. What are you worried about that has to do with an imagined future?

What is = reality. What do you know right here, right now? Who are you, right here, right now? What do you know to be true about yourself? How have you handled difficult situations in the past? Remembering who you are and recognizing your capabilities can mitigate fear, because when you know you can get past difficult situations, you are less afraid of them.

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BrandyJ said...

I do this in relationships as well. I'll either make up situations in my head and get mad about them, or I'll stew over an old infringement until I'm every bit as mad as I was back when it was actually happening.

Alyssa said...

It would be awesome-and boring-if not a one of us ever made any mistakes. However, I believe to not mistakes is not to live.

Brenda said...

I plead guilty of this as well. :) I might express something to my boyfriend and then he just looks at me as if to say with his eyes 'what are you talking about.' It's a common mistake-one of which sometimes people are mistaken for crazy, but it's a more common fault that realized.

Brenda said...

You're right. I can attest to this by the fact that I lived a very sheltered life. I feel like I missed out sometimes.

Julie U.S. Writer said...

I would imagine a scenario similar to the one described of the neighbor wanting to borrow a lawnmower, only probably in relationships as other commenters have mentioned. I might have this entire conversation rehearsed in my head and blurt out to the person something totally out of context. It's embarrassing when this happens especially when they have no idea what I'm talking about.

Trevor said...

The part about using food to numb me sounds so familiar. I sometimes do this while thinking thoughts about what I think other's think of me.

Brad said...

I don't feel so unusual now. LOL I realize I'm not alone in this. This often is a cause for my increased anxiety-worrying about what others are thinking when it may not be what they are thinking at all. Worry can kill even more than cholesterol or fat.

Melinda said...

I've said a lot of "what if's" in my mind many times. Sometimes it is the anxiety resulting from things that have happened, such as that guy I did give a chance was really a jerk and also I have said the wrong thing or at least almost got myself fired. Worrying about what people think of me has stemmed from times I was put down. Any perceived notion of what others might think of me is as painful as is reality was in the past.

Susanna said...

I also have done this way too many times-and it always seems to be for nothing, when I realize that people often don't think the way I would have predicted.

Nora said...

I know. Saying "what if" can hold a person back. We have to stop that insanity somehow.

Sarah said...

Woah this really is an eye-opener to me. All that anticipating what someone thinks of me shows me how insecure I really am.

Terry said...

I for sure need to let the what-ifs go. They are weighing me down.