“Fear is the cheapest room in the house. I would like to see you living in better conditions.” Hafiz
Have you ever felt really happy, comfortably settled into your life, loving your partner, your people—when wham, you start to think, “Oh, no, something bad is going to happen! Now that I’m really happy, [pick your poison]: I’m going to get cancer/my spouse is going to die/my kid’s going to get hurt.” Even worse, you start thinking about some specific imagined catastrophe, your phone ringing, the voice on the other end asking somberly, “Are you Mrs. Gerdes?” You even think about what you will say and do when you get the horrible news.
When we do this, it feels terrible, and robs the present of the joy we may have been feeling!
Years ago, I named this self-destructive habit “catastrophizing.” Brene Brown writes about this subject in “Daring Greatly: How the Courage to be Vulnerable Changes the Way We Live, Love, Parent and Lead,” and refers to it as “foreboding joy.” Whatever we may call this tendency, it is a way of saying, “I’m not worthy of happiness—I don’t deserve to feel this way. If I’m happy, the universe will take it away—so I better knock it back a few pegs before I get my comeuppance for feeling great!”
A few weeks ago, I found myself in the spin of catastrophizing. The love of my life, Ed, was invited to join a group to raft the wild and scenic section of the Rogue River. I know how much Ed loves the Rogue and I was happy for him, so I was appalled as the thought popped into my head, uninvited, “He’s not coming back,” followed by a gnawing pit in my stomach that made my knees go weak. This time, though, I decided I’d had enough. I wanted him to enjoy his trip and I wanted to be free of the dread so I could enjoy my writing, visits with friends—each beautiful summer day.
In addition to studying the works of prominent sexologists, I have been reading in the fields of positivity and metaphysics. Recently, I have been studying Louise Hay’s works and her admonition that our thoughts and beliefs create our realities. I realized I needed to work hard to change my thoughts—for my peace of mind and for Ed’s safety. To end my catastrophizing, I began writing daily affirmations and saying them repeatedly throughout each day. Here are a few:
· I accept that Ed is safe;
· I realize that when I catastrophize, I am showing a lack of belief in my right to be happy;
· I deserve to be happy!
· I am blessed. Ed is blessed;
· I know that FEAR is False Evidence Appearing Real. I let go of fear now and embrace my joy, happiness, contentment and the good in my life.
Up to and throughout Ed’s trip, I began and ended each day consciously expressing gratitude for Ed’s safety on the river and for my happiness. When he left for his trip, I held him in safety and never felt even the slightest bit of worry. I knew he was safe.
When Ed called to tell me he was off the river on Sunday night, I could tell something was wrong—and I also knew he was safe. When he crawled into bed later that night, I could tell by the way he moved that his body was sore—and I also knew he was safe. When I saw the angry Frankenstein scar and bruise on his forehead the next morning, I also knew he was safe.
For the first time in over 25 years of marriage, Ed did face a life-threatening situation. He survived a terrifying accident at Rainey Falls—then faced a harrowing all-night stay on a rock in the middle of Blossom Bar. In short, this trip was the most challenging of his life.
His is not my story to tell—mine is this: I shifted my thinking from loss to safety—and genuinely believed it. What I now have is far more valuable than the promise of affirmations: it is faith that I really do create my reality with my thoughts and beliefs—and my husband is safe.