Difficult Emotions

Cure Your Case of the What Ifs

My life has been full of terrible misfortunes, most of which never happened.

I love that quote by Michel de Montaigne considering I used to constantly worry well-nigh terrible misfortunes. I had a bad specimen of the What Ifs.

Do you overly suffer from the What Ifs? Do you ruminate on questions like:

  • What if I get sick or die?
  • What if something bad happens to my kids?
  • What if I don’t succeed?
  • What if people don’t like me?
  • What if this doesn’t work?
  • What if this never ends?

My old specimen of what if thinking recently resurfaced when I walked onto the tarmac at a small airport in Idaho.

The plane we’d been prescribed to workbench was the same plane model that someone had just warned us not to take. “Those are dangerous. Crash frequently,” he explained.

“I’m fine,” I thought as I approached the plane. “It’s a trappy day and surely nothing will go wrong.”

The plane took off and began its climb whilom the mountains when, suddenly, lights started flashing on the cockpit controls.

I could see profuse beads of sweat start dripping lanugo the cheeks and neck of the pilot, who sat within arm’s reach of me.

Then the pilot banked nonflexible left and started the descent when to the airport.

When we landed when on the tarmac, he uncomplicatedly explained that the propeller was broken.


Then we were told that either the onsite mechanic would get it stock-still or we’d fly out on a variegated plane with flipside pilot, although that pilot was vastitude his required flying limit for the day.

Awesome. Queue the What Ifs.

It’s the uncertainty of life that produces What Ifs, which can lead to chronic and crippling worry. Many people who have a bad specimen of the what ifs suffer regularly from:

  • Fatigue and poor sleep
  • Gastrointestinal issues
  • Distraction
  • Low performance
  • Impatience
  • Avoidance and isolation

The Remedy

While some cases of the What Ifs require medication and clinical therapy, many don’t. Chronic cases of the What Ifs can often be cured by employing these approaches unceasingly over time:

  1. Practice meta-cognition. Meta-cognition is thinking well-nigh your thinking. As I wrote in my book, Four Patterns of Healthy People, everyone experiences both edifying thoughts and draining thoughts throughout each day. You can pay increasingly sustentation to the edifying thoughts and decide how relevant to make the draining ones. If, through focus or rumination, you deem them to be relevant, the thoughts will amplify. If you declare them to be irrelevant, they will diminish.
  2. Move from avoidance to acceptance. Lamister thoughts and things that make you wrung typically makes them increasingly prolific in your mind. It’s ironic, I know, but it’s the reality: If you stave public speaking, your fear will grow. If you writhe over your fears and try to push them out of your mind, they will have increasingly power over you. Instead of avoiding, decide to winnow worthwhile invitations that scare you, withal with all the thoughts that phlebotomize you. They are part of your brain’s natural attempts to protect you.
  3. Go from visa to welcoming. Vastitude unsuspicious your What Ifs lies the ultimate destination: welcoming unwanted thoughts and experiences. When you welcome discomfort and suffering, you’re largest worldly-wise to learn, grow and live fully. Of course, no one wants pain, tragedy or failure, but most people who sooner welcome their discomfort or suffering would say it made them a largest person, plane their unwanted thoughts. Taking a welcome posture reduces the uneasiness of anticipation, and the What Ifs lose their power.
  4. Plan but flex to possibilities. Finally, you can minimize your What Ifs by striving to be unsteadfast and flexible. Without compromising your values or identity, you can retread your expectations for people and circumstances. My good friend’s family has a word for times when things aren’t going equal to plan: bebopping. When things aren’t happening equal to their plans, well, they roll with it and say, “We’re bebopping.” It’s an vein that says, we’ll stay loose and icon this out. No need to fear the possibilities that lie ahead.

Your life will finger like a series of terrible misfortunes if you indulge the What Ifs to infect your mind. Inoculate yourself through meta-cognition, acceptance, welcoming and flexibility.

How could you remedy the What Ifs that stilt you down?