The feeling of anxiety seems to really be connected to this question of “What if?” What if such-and-such bad thing happens? And of course, there is no end of possible what-ifs.
There’s always things that might happen, and many of them are bad.
So this question about “What if?”, it seems like there is no bottom to it, there’s no end to it, and we can just continue creating scenarios of what might happen.
And it seems like in anxiety, we do this automatically.
It’s just, you know, generating possible bad things that might happen, and then imagining how to prepare for them.
Now, I guess we could also ask the “What if?” for good things like “What if all these good things happen?”, but somehow that doesn’t seem quite as powerful a need, because we don’t really need to feel like we have to prepare for good things as much as bad things, of course. We have to prepare to respond to dangerous things, to bad turns of fate, but something good, we can just accept it as a stroke of good luck, a happy blessing, and carry on maybe.
So this “What if?”, it’s like “What if?” applied to every possible thing that can go wrong, and it becomes a repeated question that’s sort of circling in our minds, even without any conscious thought.
It’s just like this feeling of “I want to be prepared.
I want to be ready for whatever comes.” So I don’t know if there’s any easy way to short-circuit, to put a stop to the endless circles of what-if questions.
But I like to think of the story of some astronauts, and how they would respond to these what-ifs.
Because, you know, when you’re in such a sensitive situation where your continued survival depends on a very complicated mix of different systems and different things going right, and any number of problems can show up at any time, and many of them can result in you dying, so it would be very easy to get stuck in thinking about the what-ifs and preparing for everything.
What do you do when things break? So such and such a system.
OK, what what happens if it breaks in the middle of the flight?” OK, well, the answer is that we use the backup.
And what happens if the backup doesn’t work? Answer: we use the second backup.
The backup to the backup.
And what if the backup to the backup doesn’t work? Answer: then we have a bad day.
So this phrase “having a bad day”, it’s almost like a way of just like accepting that you can’t plan for every possible scenario, and sometimes really bad things will happen, and when that happens, you have a bad day.
There’s simply no way to prevent that.
So there’s something freeing about just giving up this need to respond to every possible eventuality.
Of course, you do your best to prepare for the most foreseen possible outcomes, and many rare long shots too, but there’s so many possible things that could happen in different combinations that we can never prepare for all of them, and sometimes just too many things go wrong at once, and then we simply accept disaster.
Yeah, it sounds like giving up, but in a way, it helps to focus attention on what we can really control, because we simply can’t get through all possible eventualities, so we just do our best and simply accept that sometimes there will be disaster, and if that happens, then we just have a disaster.
Even a saying like that, it just sounds like I’m giving up and like, you know, not being prepared, but you do your best to prepare, but there can still be disaster, and just accept.
That’s almost like an anti-anxiety message that’s like “Stop trying to plan for that.” You have your plans in place as best you can, and if too many things go wrong, then you’re done.
And then, you know, bad things happen.
The other quote that I like is well, what if there is no backup? So the thing like the rocket that was going to take the Apollo astronauts back off the moon to come home, it had just one- there was like one switch that you fire that rocket.
And if the rocket did not ignite, they would be stuck on the moon forever.
There was no backup whatsoever.
So the astronauts were asked “What would you do if that rocket did not ignite?” And somebody said this answer: “We would keep trying to solve the problem until the end, until the oxygen ran out.
Just keep trying to solve the problem until it’s over.” And I like this attitude as something to be ready for, like oh, this is this and this possible bad outcome: what are you gonna do if this bad possible thing happens? Simply try to solve the problem.
And that’s something that you can only do then, and that’s the plan.
It’s like anxiety tries to make a solution for everything in advance as a way of protecting ourselves.
But the combination of accepting possible disaster and having the plan ready: the plan is that if disaster happens, we’ll then simply try our best to solve the problem until we no longer can.
I feel like that is like arming myself to be ready for the future without really knowing what’s going to come.
#disasterplan #anxiety #readyfordisaster