My Therapist Says Think of the Best-Case Scenario
Instead of focusing on worst-case outcomes that are already highly unlikely, why not consider the total opposite?
When the pandemic hit, my biggest fear was losing my job. I struggled to think about other things, but my mind kept repeating the same chorus ad nauseam: I’m going to lose this gig, the best one I’ve ever had. I’m going to lose this job, and I won’t be able to find anything else because I can’t work on the level at which other people work, and I’m going to become an emotional and financial drain on my husband, and I’m going to gain weight, and the lines in my forehead are going to get deeper, and I’m going to lose the friends I’ve managed to cultivate, just like I always do.
My tendency to focus on the worst possible (and in many cases, impossible) outcome of an event, known as “catastrophizing” or “fortune-telling,” is an emotional crutch I’ve leaned on for most of my life. It pops up constantly: My editor is going to hate this story and will never want to work with me again; that slightly awkward statement I made at the park with a friend pissed her off, and she’s going to break off our friendship; and, of course, those relentless, toxic, body-related fears that sometimes feel like a permanent fixture of my psyche.
I’ve been seeing my current therapist for a couple years now, and she has guided me through some difficult circumstances better than any therapist or psychiatrist I’ve had in the many years I’ve been seeing them. But a few weeks ago, when I once again brought up my terror and conviction that I was going to lose my job, she mentioned I try something that in many ways felt like a revelation: When I think about the worst-case scenario, why not consider the best-case scenario alongside it?
I was astonished.
You’re focusing on outcomes that are already highly unlikely, she continued. You may as well give equal space to more positive scenarios. What would the best-case scenario be related to your job?