The “What If” Game

One of the ways anxiety distorts reality is by playing the “what if” game. Maybe while trapped in anxiety you think about, “What if my spouse leaves me?”, “What if my boss fires me?”, “What if I can’t make enough money to pay my bills?”, “What if my kids make bad mistakes?” It might be helpful for you to write down all of your “What if’s” so you can start to tell yourself the truth. The problem with the “what if” game is that we rarely answer ourselves, and if we do, we become fixated on one solution instead of letting ourselves see other possibilities. We may end up telling ourselves, “If my spouse leaves me, life will have no meaning” or “If my boss fires me, I’ll never find another job”. Do you see how these thoughts could increase anxiety? Try to answer your “What if” questions while being as honest with yourself as possible. You may need the help of a trusted friend or counselor to do this. It’s very difficult to begin thinking in reality when anxiety has been in charge. For example, if I were answering the question, “What if my boss fires me?” the answer might be something like, “I would start making a list of places I could work, I would look into filing for unemployment, I would ask close friends and family for support while I get back on me feet.” Realizing there are other options decreases anxiety. Once you’ve realized the worst case scenario could happen and you would still be okay, you will begin to gain power over your anxiety.