Fear is a powerful emotion that keeps many of us from living life fully. It holds many of us hostage, too afraid to leave relationships, to start new careers or simply to try something new. Many people stay stagnant in life because they are afraid that if they reach for something different than what what they have, and fail, then they will lose more than they already have.
Maybe you are in a relationship that is emotionally abusive and you want to leave, but are afraid that by leaving you will be lonely and alone forever, so instead you stay in this relationship that is killing you emotionally.
That fear of what may happen can be so real and intense, that it keeps you from ever reaching out and seeking something that could be much more fulfilling and fruitful.
Because fear can rob us of precious time and experiences, it’s important that we learn how to control it the best we can and one way of doing that is by making peace with the worst case scenario. By making peace with the worst case scenario, it’s possible to take much of the fear out of fear itself.
Going back to our example, let’s say that the worst case scenario is being alone. When you make peace with the worst case scenario, you take some of the bite out of that fear. So what if you are alone forever, that will give you plenty of time do whatever you want to do, to get to know who you are without the complexities of another person molding you into the person they want you to be. It gives you plenty of time to become a self-actualized person, to give back to the community, the world, to become a philanthropist, a leader, or whatever you want to be because you don’t have to answer to anyone. And, when given the opportunity, loneliness can give way to solitude (please see my post Loneliness versus Solitude for more information).
The thing is, the likelihood of never dating again after the break up is extremely low and most of the time, our fears are largely irrational or over exaggerated .
How many times have you feared something, and once you actually experienced that fearful thing, it wasn’t as bad as you thought it would be and you felt much better afterwards? Maybe you grew from the experienced in one way or the other. Making peace with the worst case scenario can help us realize that without having to go through the actual fearful situation.
On top of that, making peace with the worse case scenario can help bring clarity to a situation.
Just today I got an email from a student during the final minutes of school saying she was having dreams about killing herself and hasn’t been able to sleep. She ended her email “Please Help”. Immediately I responded to her email asking her where was she, and for her to come see me. I immediately contacted the class she was supposed to be in only to find out she hadn’t made it to class and had possibly left campus. It was the end of the school day and I wasn’t sure what else to do. This student has a history of suicide attempts and while she didn’t explicitly say she was thinking about killing herself in the email, the worst case scenario would be that she ended up committing suicide.
Looking at the worst case scenario in this way forces clarity. It made me ask myself, if that tragedy were to happen, can I say that I have done everything I was supposed to do in order to save this student. Did I do due diligence? Did I do the best I could to locate that student and make sure she was safe despite the fact classes were now over? Would I at least have some comfort in saying that I did everything I could have possibly done to save this child?
While processing this case with a coworker, I realized I hadn’t done all I could have done in the worst case scenario. I immediately went back and tried to contact both of her parents to no avail, then I called the sheriffs office and asked them to do a well-being check on her at home. It was only then that I felt I had done everything I could have reasonably have done, in the worst case scenario.
When you look at it this way, when you make peace with the worst case scenario, it is more likely that you have done everything in your power to prevent it, so that if it does come to pass, you can at least have solace in knowing that.
Fear doesn’t have to hold us hostage, it can actually free us if we learn how to embrace it and make it work for us, not against us.