When we are very young children we are naturally self-centered. We feel that everything in the world revolves around us. After all, we are fed, changed and often entertained by the adults in our lives. We have not yet developed an extensive vocabulary or life experiences which allow us to conceptually understand events such as grief, loss, or even nuances in the behavior of others. Our abstract thinking skills take years – into late adolescence – to develop. In some people these skills, in fact, never develop for various reasons. As young children when something happens – pleasant or unpleasant – we usually internalize it as something we have caused because we are still, by nature, egocentric.
As we grow into adolescence and adulthood, sometimes the self-centered or egocentric thought pattern of early childhood continues and we may develop dysfunctional behaviors such as the ‘what if syndrome’ which can stop us from expanding our world and enjoying life.
If the ‘what if’s’ in our lives can be controlled they can cause us to analyze our choices more fully which leads to better decision making. Thinking through the possible outcomes of our choices can be healthy. If, however, we allow this type of thinking to become a syndrome which controls our lives we can become so fearful of simple everyday occurrences that we are rendered helpless – afraid of what the next moment or tomorrow may bring. Obsessing about all the possible ‘what ifs’ of an event or decision can result in panic attacks that may start to control our lives necessitating professional intervention.
We hear the word moderation so often that sometimes it loses its meaning. Yet, it is very important in this context. A little goes a long way with the ‘what if’ type of thinking. Only you – or someone you trust – can observe if you have taken the fear involved in ‘what if’ thinking to an art form level which is preventing you from truly living.
Expanding our life through sound decision making and occasional risk taking experiences will allow us to more fully enjoy our life journey. As Albert Einstein said, “A ship is always safe at the shore – but that is NOT what it is built for.”
Have a great few days!