It must be a defense mechanism to jump to the worst conclusion. A symptom (physical, emotional or mental) appears and we immediately assume there is something deeply wrong. Perhaps it’s our way of bracing ourselves for a nasty fall?
A close friend of mine recently believed that after 7 years of marriage, her relationship with her husband had evolved to a degree where she could no longer feel a connection to him. They barely spoke to each other when the kids weren’t around. They were easily annoyed with one another. They often took things the other said the wrong way. “It’s like we’re on completely different channels,” she said.
It’s definitely not unusual for couples to grow apart. These two were very different to begin with and responded to their shared life experiences (children, financial strain, death of a mutual close friend) in divergent ways. I didn’t think her crazy for thinking their relationship had run its course. But then something happened. He got another job, one that was more satisfying and allowed him to earn more money. His mood shifted, her stress decreased. Suddenly, they were having fun again for the first time in months. They were able to see their connection was not, in fact, lost.
Something similar, though in a totally different arena, happened to me five months after giving birth to my son. I became convinced I was very sick. I had intense headaches, blurry vision and an overall malaise I just could not shake. Based on my symptoms, my doctor ran some tests. Unhappy with some of the results, she further explored the possibility of cancer. In the end, my tests were clear. My son began to sleep through the night, which meant I was also sleeping and not nursing every few hours, and my symptoms slowly began to disappear.
I hear similar stories of people assuming the very worst when something is going wrong. But then, something shifts and we all breathe a sigh of relief that it turned out to be a false alarm. And so, next time you find yourself thinking there are aspects of your life are damaged beyond repair, stop to consider your circumstances first.
From a physical standpoint, are you getting enough sleep, eating enough wholesome, healthy food, drinking enough water (it’s astounding how much feels wrong when we’re dehydrated)? In your life, are you getting enough time to yourself to unwind, work out and spend time with friends? Are your stress levels manageable?
Unfortunately, it is not always easy to make tweaks that will improve these aforementioned conditions. For example, if you have just started a business, it’s highly likely there is little you can do to eat better, sleep more and reduce your stress. But, I still encourage you to looks at the whole picture and consider whether what you’re feeling is due to circumstantial issues instead of a major cause, like having chosen the wrong career path. Of course, even the circumstantial issues may be reflecting deeper issues that need to be addressed, but often the story the mind weaves is overblown. This is what we need to remember when we’re in a bind.
I often think about a friend who is a mom of two young children. Only one of them goes to nursery school a couple of times a week for a few hours. The rest of the time, both are home. Not only is my friend caring for her two kids practically full-time, she also works part-time from home. Because she and her husband aren’t in the best financial place and she has no family in the area, she has very little access to help--she doesn’t even have the luxury to order food when she has had a particularly bad day and doesn’t really have time to make dinner. While talking one day, she said she feels she isn’t fit to be a mother. She lacks patience and can’t often tap into her compassion. My eyes opened wide as she spoke. Knowing everything I know about her, I have absolutely no doubt she has everything within her to be an extraordinary mother. But who can fulfill one’s potential when one is so busy surviving the everyday grind?
She doesn’t currently have the resources to change her circumstances, but they will change over time as her children grow up and start public school or if her husband is able to find a better job. In the meantime, I urged her to stop jumping to conclusions about who she is and the decisions she has taken in her life. It is so clear to me that her issues aren’t due to her abilities or her choices. They are very simply due to the fact that her circumstances are crushing her at the moment.
Next time you begin to feel like things are falling apart and there is something wrong with you, first think of my friend and consider whether in your case, it’s also circumstances that are making you feel this way.