Reality Check: Past and Future Worries

“One trip through the misery is more than enough for most people.” That’s a quote from Dr. Wm. Glasser where he discusses the value—or lack of value—of dwelling on past miseries.
The past is over. We can’t change what we did, nor can we change what anyone else did. We could revisit the past and relive the misery, regret, resentment, or anger, but is it useful? We can only act in the present.
However, this is not to dismiss the value of learning from experience.
A reality therapy approach includes self-evaluation, with questions such as, How is what you are doing working for you? Is what you have done, and what you are doing, bringing you closer to where you want to be?
While people have always had worries about the future, my perception is that fears are more widespread now. And we can justify it; there are plenty of reasons for concern, after all.
There’s the pandemic, of course. But there are other worries too: changes in attitudes toward work, money, and education which have some questioning where it’s all leading. There are divisions and conflicts between members of society, between governments and the governed, and even within families.
In a world where it is difficult not to be skeptical of anything we hear, it can seem that things are spinning out of control. If worries are bringing you only anguish and adding nothing productive to your life, then here’s a suggestion you might try.
We both know that you’ve had worries in the past. Take a little self-directed walk through those worries using this very specific filter—Look only for the worries that didn’t come to fruition. Look for the disasters that you thought could have happened but didn’t, the health scares that frightened you but didn’t turn out to be as bad as expected, and those near misses where you said, “Whew, that was close!”
Get a little notebook and write them down.
This is not a memoir. A memoir would include life’s ups and downs, including the bad times that really did end up bad. No; this is not a history of your life. It’s specifically to remind yourself of times when you imagined awful possibilities that ultimately didn’t happen, or where you were able to overcome the difficulties.
Did all those fears that seemed life-changing or world-ending come to fruition? Did your worry about them have any positive effect?
By now you are thinking, “That’s not realistic. It’s important to remember the bad times too!” I know that. However, we get enough worrying news that I don’t think there’s too much danger of this little exercise turning you into an unrealistic Pollyanna.
When we are feeling vulnerable, it’s easy to forget what we have already overcome, or the imagined disasters that never happened. We need reminders. If we don’t get encouragement from others, we can still remind ourselves.
Use your little notebook as a defense against anxiety. During worrying times, it’s helpful to remind ourselves that all of those imagined or projected worst-case scenarios don’t come true. Looking through your own record of past worries may be a helpful reminder of exactly that.

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