It has been advised by safety experts that it is important to not to let an attacker, kidnapper, or anyone at all shady take us to a second location. Just ask Dexter, who is a professional interior designer with an eye for quick clean up, containment , danger, and simple lines (which are cheeky at best) . Some of these same principals are true when looking at the second location when we play the What If game.
We all know and play the What If game. It goes like this…What if I get a bad review at work? What if they write me up? What if I get fired? What if I won’t be able to get a job because I got fired? What if I can’t pay my bills and lose my house/apartment? What if I have to live in a cardboard box and eat squirrels I catch with my bare hands?
First off, take a breath. Second, nobody catches squirrels with their bare hands; they are way too mean and wily for that nonsense. You might, however, catch a blind, bloated, geriatric, pokey pigeon and that is a long shot at best.
The What If game is the single best way to take a problem, a fear, or a discreet unpleasant incident and turn it into a downward spiral. The What If game is an avalanche of negative thoughts that can send us into an abyss for an hour, a day or far longer. The good news is that we are the ones who start or don’t start that avalanche; we have control of where we let our tiny little minds run. The rule for safety in never going to the second location comes in here, only now it keeps us mentally safe and sane. If something we perceive as bad happens and we jump to a negative conclusion, then another, then another, soon we are racing down a fictional dark alleyway complete with monsters we keep on retainer.
One jump is all we get if we want to stay sane and maintain perspective. If, however, we let our tiny evil minds take us to its second What If location, it is the equivalent of going to the second location with Dexter, Darth Vader, or Donny Osmond-no good can come of it. One jump allows us to plan, and maybe do some critical thinking, assessment, or creative problem solving once the fear ebbs away. By feeding the fear in going to that second What If location, those steps never happen. Chasing those dark thoughts of What If only triggers our lizard brain where the release of cortisol and adrenalin and our amygdala is in charge as danger is flagged. Having access only to our amygdala brain gives us three options: fight, flight or freeze. We react in lieu of respond because that is all we are capable of if we don’t take a breath and invite in our prefrontal cortex where our executive functioning and more developed cogitative process live.
The What If game is a bad game, not unlike the steel-tipped lawn dart sets of the 1950’s. It appears to be a harmless sport at first until drunken Uncle Willy loses a game and punctures Aunt Erma’s lung when she takes the last cold Schlitz. There is no good here, and no reason or reasonability, and more than that if you play you lose. The only way to win the What If game is not to play. So what does this mean? It means before we jump to that second location in What If, we breath, we distract ourselves, we pause, we catch that string of catastrophizing and self-implosion we are about to inflict on ourselves and those around us. We wait for the real data to come in and assess. Come on, most everything looks better in the light of day except of course those purple highlights you added to your hair and the drunken texts you sent your ex-last night.
Whatever we can do to catch ourselves from playing What If is good. Science shows us that a mere two minute distraction can help us jump tracks in that dangerous looping game. This is hard stuff folks, I am not kidding. If at first we only catch ourselves at jump 10 in the What If game and suddenly realize that maybe we won’t die alone, addicted to Funyuns, in a fetid flophouse with 72 cats, that is progress. And then maybe next time when we get caught up in the What If game, we catch ourselves at jump 5, where we realize that we might not really be doomed to be dating for 20 more years, eating too much junk food, or carelessly investing our 401K in that cat spa. Each time we practice we get better at not engaging those rapid, rabid, dark thoughts, at catching ourselves sooner and finally, at not playing at all. When making the choice to only work with what is and not the scary, self-indulgent fears of the past, not the fiction, we stop the ride down the slippery slope. This is not easy or done quickly, but the pay-off even for a little bit in pulling back in the What If game has a huge benefit in happiness, contentment and calm. When things go wrong and we don’t go to the second What If location, we are then dealing with quicker clean up, simpler lines and containment; therefore, less danger. Doing this is a way to dial back the internal drama and let Showtime handle that production cost not you.