Making Peace With The Worst Case Scenario

istock-peaceFear 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.

STDs and Pregnancy Scares: My Week In Review

immigration.istock-e1335353696609Last week was a super busy and crazy week. It seemed like I couldn’t get a handle on anything. On top of the many clients I already see, the referrals were pouring in and I only got a chance to meet with a couple of those, the most serious ones, two girls who had attempted suicide recently and had been hospitalized.

I met with both of them once and just kind of introduced myself, explained what counseling was and wasn’t since neither one of them had ever been in counseling before, and then started trying to build rapport with them. Both are very damaged young ladies, but I think we all are to some extent. They both, just from their presence, scream some type of past history of abuse to me, and one is living with a parent with a severe mental illness and drug addiction, so you can imagine the affects that will have on a teenager.

Besides that I had two clients that thought they might be pregnant. One is 17 and one is 16 and the sad thing is, as much as they say they don’t want to be pregnant, I think they really do want to be pregnant because neither one of them are doing anything to prevent becoming pregnant. If they aren’t pregnant, then it’s probably only a short matter of time before they will be.

Neither of them are mentally mature enough to be mothers, despite their biological maturation. One is really naive and I am sure she thinks that being pregnant will make the boy she’s sleeping with (who is not her boyfriend) commit to her. The other has severe low-self esteem and is very emotionally unstable, she says she is ready to be a mother, but mentally she acts about two years below her chronological age.

Talking to these young ladies, it’s clear that neither one of them have any idea of the dedication and sacrifice that goes into being a parent, but they don’t see a baby as a responsibility, but as a solution to one problem or another.

Still on the topic of teenage sex, another female client came to me crying because she thinks she may have a sexually transmitted disease. I referred her to the school nurse and then to a community clinic since she doesn’t want her mother to know.

This girl is very sexually active and at 16, claims she has had about 20 sexual partners. She doesn’t open up much, but I am working on helping her build her self-esteem and I am almost 100% sure that there is a history of sexual abuse, but she hasn’t disclosed that as of yet. She talks a lot about her mother, whom I haven’t met yet, but from what the she says, her mother seems to be just as promiscuous and I am sure that affects this client’s behavior and relationships with males.

We did talk about her father whom she felt abandoned her when she was young and I think that explains at least in part why she is always trying to be with one guy or several. That on top of her mother’s influences on her and her low self-esteem (she once told me that the only thing she likes about herself was her hair), all contribute to her risky sexual behavior.

She’s supposed to go to the clinic this week so hopefully she’ll find out that everything is okay or at least is treatable.

And then on Friday, while I was facilitating a group, I looked up and saw two female sheriff detectives standing at my door. I was immediately dismayed because I had no idea what they wanted to talk to me about. Ends up, one of my clients reported being sexually abused and the detectives were there to ask me what I knew about it.

It initially felt a little intimidating, like an interrogation because none of the answers I gave them seemed to be concise enough, and they kept pushing, but I was treading on giving them information I knew I legally and ethically should give them while also respecting my clients confidentiality by not giving them information unrelated/unnecessary to  their investigation.

In the end I think I did both well, but it was definitely an experience. It was my first time ever having to deal with detectives in that manner although I make suspected abuse and neglect calls to child services all the time.

That was a rather stressful way to end the week on top of everything else, but I left work on Friday and ran four miles with one a friend which was a great way to distress while venting. Taking care of yourself physically, mentally and spiritually is a must in the helping professions or you’ll succumb to burnout and compassion fatigue, places I know all too well and try to prevent with every fiber of my being through self-care, which is sometimes easier said then done.