Are you are your children often worried or have anxiety about things to come? In this episode, we talk about a little game I like to play that helps your brain see there is nothing to worry about after all.
So for today’s episode I wanted to share with you a little game I play. I play this game by myself, with my husband, with my kids, with my friends and family, and I play it a lot with my clients. It’s called the What If game.
Now let me back up a little bit and talk about our brain….
Our brain likes to keep us safe. It wants to keep us alive. So it is constantly on the lookout for danger. Back in the caveman days, this was a really good thing. This was a very important skill our brain had to keep us alive. There were literally dangers around every corner.
But as we as a society have evolved, we no longer have physical danger around every corner. We don’t need to be worried about tigers trying to eat us or our children. But our brain hasn’t evolved. It still thinks there is danger everywhere. And where there isn’t physical danger, it creates scenarios of emotional danger that it needs to protect us from. The problem is…there really isn’t emotional danger. If we understand what our emotions are, just a vibration in our body, and that they can’t actually hurt us, and we are willing to feel any of those vibrations in our body, even the ones that don’t really feel good, we never ever have to experience emotional danger because we know it’s just an emotion and we can totally handle it.
Ok, so let’s get back to our topic for today. Do you ever experience worry or have anxiety about the future? This is when you want to play the What If game. Anytime we think thoughts that make us feel worryor anxiety about things to come, I want you to play it out to the end of the what ifs….
So, let’s say you are going to be in a social situation and you are worried that someone will talk to you. Maybe you aren’t confident in how you will respond or what you will say. You are worried that you will something stupid. Now it’s time to play the game.
- What if you say something stupid…what then?
- You might be feel embarrassed.
- What if you feel embarrassed?
- Embarrassed is just a FEELING. It doesn’t feel very good in your body but it won’t actually hurt you.
- But when you realize that it is just a feeling and you are capable of feeling any emotion because it won’t actually hurt you, then you can deal with it. It will eventually be ok. You will be ok. You aren’t going to die…even though it might feel like it for a minute.
The night before my son left, we were meeting with our Stake President, which is one of our local ecclesiastical leaders. He asked me what my worries and concerns were and I kind of laughed and told him I didn’t find worry to be a useful emotion, so I just don’t worry about anything. Why? Because I know that no matter what happens I can handle it. I’ve played the “What if” game for myself in every situation I can think of.
- What if my son gets sick on his mission?
- What if my son hates his companions or his Mission President?
- What if he is homesick?
- What he wants to come home?
- What if something happens and he dies?
I’ve thought about it all…
I could worry about it and stew over or…but I play the What If game instead. And do you know what my answer is after I play the What If game every single time…the answer is always “I’ll figure it out and it will be ok.” It might be painful. It might be uncomfortable. It might not be what I wanted…but I’ll figure it out and it will be ok.
I have a friend who was struggling with her son. He was adopted and his mother was mentally ill and died by suicide. She was so worried about her son and was asking all sort of What Ifs…
- What if he is mentally ill like his mom?
- What if he struggles his whole life?
- What if he dies by suicide as well?
When I was talking to her, I asked her to play it out. What if he died by suicide? What then? And after thinking about it she said “Well, I can know that I did everything I could to help him and I am so grateful that I got to be his mom for the time he had.” She figured it out. She would be ok. That doesn’t mean it wouldn’t be hard. It wouldn’t be painful. But she would figure it out and it would be ok.
Many of my clients come to me questioning if they are going to leave their marriage or not. We play the what if game a lot!
- What if I stay…what is that going to look like?
- What if I go…what will that look like?
- What if my husband fights me for custody?
- What if he wins custody?
- What if I have to go back to school?
- What if I can’t find a job?
- What if I can’t support my children?
- What if I can’t afford a place to live?
- What if I am alone forever?
- What if I divorce him and I’m still miserable?
As parents we play the What If game with our kids constantly…
- What if they fail a class?
- What if they look at pornography?
- What if they do drugs?
- What if they have sex?
- What if they are struggling with friends?
- What if they get kidnapped?
- What if they die?
So there are so many things in our life that seem like that could be so hard and our brain wants to worry and stew on all of these just in case they might happen to keep us safe emotionally.
So when you have those thoughts…I want you to play the what if game. What if it did happen? What would you do? How would you feel?
I promise, the answer 100% of the time is…. you’ll figure it out and it will be ok. Because if you think about it…you record of figuring it out and you are still alive is 100% up to this point. I’ll bet you can figure it out in the future too.