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Self Help Articles

Negative Anticipation

Author: Kathleen Savory
(Founder / Co-ordinator Chester-le-Street Self Help Group)


Negative anticipation is the chain of thoughts that you give yourself before visiting any situation; whether it be going to the supermarket, visiting a friend, being asked out for a meal, or being invited to a family gathering, such as a wedding. The whole thinking process before the event tends to be negative. This kind of thinking serves no useful purpose, it tends to hinder more than help.

For example, if you were invited to a wedding, your first reaction would probably be "I cannot go", then possibly, "But if I don't go, everyone will wonder why and the family will be angry". Then the negative anticipation starts to snowball...

You might think to yourself, if I do go, "What if I panic in the church? It will be a long service and I can't sit that long - What if I can't breath? - What if I feel dizzy? - What if I faint?". How about that for negative thinking... and I heven't even started yet!

Well, let's move on to the reception... "What if it's a buffet meal? I'll never cope with all those people moving about - What if it's a sit-down meal? Everyone will be looking at me. I'll be trapped! - What if I panic? - What if I get a pain in my chest? I'm sure to have a heart attack! - What if I faint? I will make a fool of myself..."

All of this negative thinking and you're still standing in your own home with the freshly opened invitation in your hand! Besides feeling terrible, you have just tried to predict the future using negative anticipation.

So. What are you going to do? Are you going to give in? After all, it is easier to say that you're not going rather than face the situation you've just forecast... But before you say no, let's think about it in a rational way. Let's challenge those negative thoughts. So your first positive action is to give up clairvoyancey and stop trying to predict what will happen - you're only scaring yourself.

Remember that anxiety is normal at a wedding; the bride, groom, bridesmaids and close family will all be anxious that everything goes according to plan. And the majority of guests will be anxious about meeting family and friends they may not have seen for a long time. Any new or unfamiliar situation is an anxiety provoking situation, IF YOU LET IT BE.

So your next positive thought is: ANXIETY IS NORMAL IN THIS SITUATION. Concentrate on your breathing. Be aware of your shoulders - are they up round your ears! If so, relax them, even if it means doing this every few minutes. If it makes you feel more secure, sit at the back of the church. You can always pop out - nobody will notice. Usually when you give yourself the escape clause option, it's rare that you'll make use of it (and using it is not a sign of failure, either).

At the reception use the same coping skills, and try to get interested in the conversation going on around you. Use anything that will take your mind off yourself (distraction techniques). Remember that you have felt light-headed, dizzy and panicky before, and nothing happened then. Use self talk to reassure yourself that you're OK and are going to continue being OK.

If you allow the negative thoughts to return and begin to dwell on your "What if's", YOU ARE JUST FRIGHTENING YOURSELF.

Lastly, concentrate on the wonderful feeling you will get when you say to yourself " I'VE DONE IT".

Can you see how negative anticipation can prevent you from coping with any situation that presents itself. Fear of what MIGHT happen can hinder recovery. Recognise what you are thinking before any situation. Take these negative thoughts and challenge them!

Remember, every thought causes a physical reaction - Anticipation of a situation is often worse than the actual situation itself.

Wallsend Self Help Group 2015 Rob Rolls

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