The way we talk to ourselves is important. It impacts our behavior. Have you ever noticed yourself running through a list of all the ways life could go wrong? Does preparing for an upcoming event bring up memories of every past failure? Do you spend hours reviewing small moments in your life? I do.
I am really good at overthinking and getting myself worked up before an incident has even occurred. In people who go through traumatic events this response is often stronger. Having seen first hand how life can quickly turn, it is hard to be hopeful at times. Opportunities that would normally bring excitement may bring fear instead. This is because your brain is trying to protect you by preparing you for worst case scenarios. However, there is a technique I have learned and use for when my brain does this.
This past year there was an earthquake where I live. It was a scary experience for me and afterwards I became worried about another even bigger earthquake occurring. This thought would keep me up at night and leave me hypersensitive to any movements. It got stuck in my mind and felt impossible to forget. I couldn’t see life past the worst case scenario that continued to come into my mind.
Then I remembered a therapeutic technique that I had learned. The technique is to ask the question “then what?” until your mind finds a place where it is okay. For this scenario, asking the question “then what?” has helped me realize that, were another earthquake to occur, people would come to help and I would be able to rebuild my life and make progress towards my goals again. I was able to start seeing some of the positive potentials for the future again. The technique helped me remember the resiliency I have and that I am capable of surviving hard situations.
If you notice yourself getting stuck in worst case scenarios in your mind, then I would encourage you to keep asking yourself the question of “then what?” Do this until you remember that you have overcome hard things in the past and are resilient enough to do it in the future. Allow yourself to think of best case scenarios for your future to combat the bad ones. It is impossible to know what the future is going to hold in the present moment. There are millions of possibilities that you have not yet considered. It is important to balance out the bleak scenarios with the positive ones.
When traumatic events happen, it’s common to be afraid of worst case scenarios in the future. Asking yourself “then what?” can help to begin to move past fear and remember just how resilient you are.
If you or someone you know is struggling with emotional distress after a disaster, know you are never alone. You can contact the national Disaster Distress Helpline at 1-800-985-5990 any time, day or night, to be connected to a trained, caring counselor.