We can do better than we think

“I love this road trip with my friends. But what if we meet with an accident and I lose my legs?”

“I love my partner, and we’re too good together. But what if this isn’t going to last?”

“I know I did my exams well. But what if I flunk?”

“I worked my ass off this year. I should get promoted. But what if I don’t?”

Do these phrases sound familiar? Trust me; we’ve all been there.

Every time a negative thought spoils the fun for us, we acknowledge it in two ways. We either immediately dismiss it and try hard to resort to forced optimism by saying things like, “Don’t be stupid. Life’s good. No such a thing will happen.”

Or we go a step further and imagine how we’d feel or react when our negative thought comes true. We become anxious and distressed. We carry these feelings to our present life and affect our relationship with the people around us. It just takes a fraction of a second for the entire story to play in our heads. No wonder imagination is wild.

So what exactly is the problem?

Striving within the loop of denial

Every time we encounter a negative thought, we start predicting how we’d feel in the future if it turns out to be true. We grossly overestimate the intensity and the duration of our emotional reactions to such situations. This exaggeration could do more harm than good. It can comfortably underestimate our potential to handle difficulties in life.

For example, when we imagine losing the ability to walk for a couple of months, it can send chills down our spine. But when such a thing happens, we experience a paradigm shift in how we think and act. We learn to adapt.

Stephen Hawking’s story is a brilliant example to understand this. Stephen was diagnosed with motor neurone disease in his early twenties and was trapped in a shell of a body. For a man of such intelligence and stature, this disability was a heavy blow. But did that stop him from being one of the world’s most outstanding scientists? His legacy will live on forever.

The beauty of survival

All of us have had our share of unexpected miseries, and we’ve fought them gracefully. It is because we didn’t have a choice. We learned to accept agony, how much ever hard it was. We did not bury ourselves in denial. We understood reality for what it was and responded sensibly. It’s called the adaptation principle.

If we know we’re going to be paralyzed or our relationship with a loved one will end, we try our best to accept it. We make life choices accordingly. We learn, we grow, and the cycle repeats. That’s the beauty of survival.

So the next time you feel like your world is crashing down, think of all the battles you’ve survived, the lessons you’ve learned, and the mental strength you’ve acquired.

Frankly, you can do better than you think. 😇

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