The Great What-If

What if?

It’s a question we ask ourselves all the time. It allows the mind to dream up whatever it wants to about the situation or circumstance that we find ourselves in.

The question can be fun like, what if I win the lottery? Or the question can be scary, what if he/she breaks up with me? The idea of what if can conjure up all kinds of stories, ideas, and feelings. We base our self-worth on what if. We make decisions based on what if. We avoid things based on what if.

The interesting part of that question is that whatever is on the end of it almost never happens. It almost never becomes a reality. Why? Because the things that are on the other end of it all have an element of fear to them. We’re either afraid of the good thing happening or we’re afraid our worst-case scenario might happen. What if he/she does ask me out? It creates fear and anxiety, even though the possibility is exciting to us.

The mind plays tricks on us because it wants to keep us safe. It makes us think there is a problem even if there isn’t, because it doesn’t understand what might happen if that thing occurs. It hasn’t been there before so it wants to avoid it. The mind creates a fight or flight response to the idea because it doesn’t know how else to handle it.

We have to be really careful with this idea of what-if. It can be fun to use to imagine the life we want to create. When used consciously and mindfully this question can be quite beneficial. It can also be a rabbit hole that prevents us from moving forward. We have to make sure that we stay out of using what if as a way to avoid doing the things we know we need to do.

The easiest way to handle the what-if of the mind is to simply rationalize ourselves back out of it. In the case of the potential of a broken relationship, we have to determine whether that relationship is worth the potential of the pain. We have to decide whether we really want to be in that relationship. We have to make sure that we’re not just avoiding all relationships out of fear. We have to look for the balance within ourselves and then work on creating it outside of ourselves.

It takes practice and awareness to be able to spot ourselves falling into fear and using what-if as a way of protecting ourselves. We won’t be perfect at it. That’s the fun of the human experience. But awareness helps us avoid these rabbit holes. Once we understand that the mind makes up things, we can begin to shift the focus of the mind onto something else.

The fear only comes in because of the thoughts. Without the thoughts, there is no fear. While it’s impossible to completely tame the mind, it is possible to teach it what to focus on and what to leave behind. It takes practice, patience, and awareness to accomplish this, but the more we do it the better we get at it and the easier it becomes.

Catch yourself next time you fall into the great what-if. What’s the mind making up this time and how can you shift the focus?

Love to all.

Laura

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