Someone once asked me why I worry so much. When I stopped to really consider the reason, I realized it is because I believe that if I consider every possible outcome of a situation (particularly the worst one) I will be better prepared. When has worrying ever prepared anyone though? We cannot possibly know what will happen. Many times the things I worry about never come to pass, while the actual outcomes are often things I never could have predicted. This desire to be prepared for the worst is just another extension of the desire for control.
On this topic, Anne Wilson Schaef writes:
“We addicts are ‘if’ people. We use our ‘iffing’ to try to control our past, present, and our future.
If only we had been more assertive, we would have made the promotion. If only we had been more intelligent, we would have done a better job.
Our ‘as iffing’ tries to cope with the present. We act as if we know what we are doing. We act as if we are calm and relaxed. After all, we have developed some skills.
Yet it is our ‘what iffing’ that really keeps us paralyzed and feeds our illusion that we are in control. We try to imagine every possible exigency and prepare for it before it happens. If I just cover every base, I will never be caught wanting. My ‘iffing’ has resulted in my never being present in life.”
If is a big word. It weighs down our present with thoughts of a past and future that we can neither change nor control. Our “what ifs” give us the illusion of control by allowing us to think that next time we will be better. Next time we won’t make the same mistakes. All this does is spoil the present moment though. We can learn from our mistakes and still do better next time without beating ourselves up for them and dwelling on them. When we live in the past and the future, we allow no time for the present. All that our lives are exists in the here and now. We can never revisit the past except for in our memories, and the future is never guaranteed. While I believe that if only I can cover every base, I will never be left wanting, the truth is that I am always left wanting, because I never simply enjoy what I have today.
I also spend much of time acting as if everything is fine. Though it hadn’t occurred to me before now, it makes sense that this is a coping mechanism. I act as if I have everything under control. As though I am not completely exhausted and burned out, stressed to the point of mental and sometimes physical breakdown. If I live for today, focused only on the task at hand and that which truly matters right now, I won’t need to act as if I am okay; I will truly be okay.
It’s ironic, but letting go of the endless need for control is the only way we can truly be in control of our lives and ourselves.