If you’re like me and you’ve been to therapy because you suffer from anxiety, then you’ve probably heard your therapist repeatedly say the phrase “What’s the worst that can happen?” I've seen three therapists in my day before finding the right one and all three asked me this same question over and over again.
Why is that?
In cognitive therapy and exposure therapy - both of which have been proven to be extremely effective in helping people with chronic and acute anxiety - the idea is to make you think and feel your way through your emotions.
For those who have anxiety, imagining the “worst-case scenario” can be a visceral and intense experience - and that’s exactly the point.
Just as with meditation, this question prompts an emotional response in our bodies which then allows us to feel and think through the experience as opposed to becoming overwhelmed by it.
“What would it feel like if the worst thing were to happen? Could I go on living? Will my life fall apart? Where do I feel the anxiety in my body?”
Our job is not to run away from these intense feelings of fear and anxiety but instead investigate them, feel them, separate yourself from them and finally, accept them for what they are—simply a thought or emotion.
It’s funny, I’ve been doing this “worst-case” scenario exercise for several years now and never actually had to face this impossibly difficult scenario, until now.
This is the story about the stupidest thing I’ve ever done…
As I’ve mentioned about a billion times before through these blogs and on our videos, my wife and I have been trying to move to Vancouver, Canada for about 4 months now. We quit our jobs, rented out our house that we just bought two years ago, and sold all of our belongings.
Last Wednesday, my wife and I left Reno with our U-Haul packed and my wife’s car hitched behind us on a trailer. We said goodbye to all of our loved ones and hit the road for our journey up north to Vancouver.
It took us two days and roughly eight-teen hours of stressful driving as the roads were windy, and I had never towed a car before. But alas, we finally made it to the border last Friday afternoon.
When we got to the border between Washington State and British Columbia, my wife and I were both delirious from the past several weeks of work and preparation leading up to this point. The border was literally our last stop before we made it to the home stretch and arrived at our new apartment in downtown Vancouver. Tired as we were, there is no doubt that we were both excited to start our new lives in our beautiful new city.
Then, it happened…
As we crossed the border we were instructed to park our U-Haul and speak to someone in Canadian customs about our trip. The look on the first customs agents face kind of worried me as it seemed like something was wrong but at this point my wife and I were still in high spirits and thought for sure they just needed to check our paperwork and it would be no time before we were back on the road again.
Well, that’s not at all what happened. Instead, when we got to the customs office we were advised that since we were bringing all of our belongings to Canada and our Visa’s weren’t yet finalized, we could NOT enter the country…
My wife and I were in complete shock! We pleaded with the agent to make an exception and showed her email correspondents from the law firm we hired to help with the move which stated we could rent in Canada and live in Canada for six months without the visa being finalized.
What the lawyers didn’t tell us. however, was that we can only vacation in Canada for six months. According to the customs agents, once we tried to get across the border with all our belongings we demonstrated an intent to move, thus nullifying the six-month timeline.
To the customs agents’ credit, she definitely tried to help us and tried to see if there was a way to get us across the border that day. After waiting for an hour or so, the final verdict was in…
We were NOT allowed to cross the border until our paperwork was finalized and we were not allowed to cross the Canadian border with our U-Haul and belongings in the meantime.
Me and my wife's hearts were absolutely broken…. for about two seconds.
We both handled the terrible news in our own little way but immediately after we recognized where we were and what needed to be done, we simply got to work.
In our minds it was better to focus the limited energy we had left in the tank on fixing the problem at hand as opposed to spending time being angry at ourselves the lawyers and trying to pin the blame on someone.
Within an hour we found a storage unit right next to the border, unloaded our shit and found a hotel in Bellingham, WA where we stayed a night or two before making the 18 hour trip back to Reno the following Sunday.
So, JC… “What’s the worst that can happen?”
Well, I no longer have a job, we rented out the house we own, we barely have enough in savings to get us through, we sold one of our cars, we left all our stuff in another state, we are living out of a suitcase in my wife’s grandparent’s basement and it can take a few weeks or a few monthsfor our paper work to be finalized.
If you ask me, this is about as bad as it gets.
But you know what?
I’M STILL OKAY!!!
It didn’t kill me. I’m still insanely in love with my wife, more than ever in fact, and our friends and family have really stepped up to take care of us in this time of need.
I suppose that’s the point of the “worst-case scenario” exercise.
When done correctly, after imagining the worst-case scenario you realize that even if it were to happen, you still have your family, you still have your mindfulness practice and perhaps most importantly, you see that the “worst” didn’t kill you.
My hope in telling you about the dumbest thing I’ve ever done is that it shows you that no matter how bad things get, there are always things to be grateful for in your life and you are stronger than you think. What you think will be catastrophic often isn’t, and where you think you are weak you are often stronger than you could ever imagine.
So with that, I want to thank you for being patient with me as we worked through this process and I apologize for not posting last week. Fortunately, this week we will be back to business as usual so please make sure to check out or Minutes of Mindfulness Series this Sunday!
Many Many Blessings