“I’m sorry, your card’s been declined…”
“Your test results came back…”
“I have some bad news about Dad…”
If you’ve ever heard any statements, like the ones above, you know how much they can stop you dead in your tracks, frozen with fear. Many of us have also heard words like:
“I’m not in love with you anymore.”
“I want a divorce!”
“I got a really good lawyer and I’m going for full custody!”
Paralyzed. Terrified. What do we do?
Divorce, from the time of breaking up all the way through the legal proceedings and beyond, is full of these paralyzing moments. We simply can’t predict what our ex is thinking or capable of doing, what the legal process might hold for us, and life after, in new and foreign territory, seems full of uncertainty.
Humans, by nature, are afraid of the new and unknown. This is a survival mechanism to prevent us from eating the poisonous mushroom or walking right up to the lion to pet it. A little fear goes a long way to preserve the species and spare us a lot of unwanted pain- or shame!
Finding a fear balance is necessary. Fear might prevent us from stepping right off the cliff, but it can also freeze us in place, making us completely ineffective.
My go-to technique in moments of terror is to imagine the worst-case scenario.
Talk yourself down from the ledge by asking yourself these questions:
What am I afraid of?
What’s the worst that could happen?
Okay, and if the worst actually happens, what could you do about it?
What is the likelihood of the worst possibility happening?
Now that you look at it that way, is it as terrible as you first feared?
How might you counteract or prevent what you fear happening from occurring?
How might you turn events around in your favor?
I used to do “worst case scenario” exercises all the time with my friend Gemma when she was going through her divorce. I recall countless encounters when we would meet and she would breathlessly tell me “I’m freaking out! I don’t know what to do! He hired that pit bull attorney, and I’m afraid he’s going to take the kids and everything we have!”
Of course! It’s the worst to think that everything we care about could be swept away in an ugly divorce (mind you, what divorce isn’t ugly?)!
I felt for my poor friend and the agony she endured through one scenario after another. What a helpless and scary way to feel! In the most calm and reassuring way that I could, we would start to break the issue down into smaller bits. What was purely irrational fear versus what was most likely to happen? What steps was she already taking to protect her interests? What steps could she take to bolster her defenses? What is most likely to occur? If the worst imaginable fate were to happen, what would that look like, and what could she do about it?
Yes, the outcomes may not always be what we hope for, and the worst-case scenario may come to pass. Talking through the fears doesn’t mean that they won’t come true; but, it almost always feels better to face the fears, break them down into bite-size pieces, and develop some strategies to overcome each problem!
If the worst of the worst becomes reality, make a plan for how to slay it. Don’t let it blindside you; but, also don’t be overcome by the terror of it.
More often than not, the outcome of the situation lands somewhere between the “end of the world” and “I can deal with that!” If you’re prepared mentally to battle the worst that life can throw your way, then items that fall under the category of inconvenient, frustrating, or “is that the best you’ve got?” become way less daunting!
Often, we discover that many of our fears are overblown and irrational. Examine each fear and whether or not it has any merit. Fear is like a contagion that spreads, grows, and clouds our vision. Something can become completely blown out of proportion and morph into a much scarier looking beast than it really is.
Can your ex really take the home and all of your assets? Probably not. Work with your lawyer to discuss your situation and your stake in the case. It’s very unlikely that you will walk away with nothing, though you will have less than when you were married.
Would it really be that terrible if you had to move? Sure, moving is a pain, and you will have to leave behind a major fixture from your past life; but, you will also have a fresh start and an opportunity to separate from unhappy memories of the past. What’s more, now you get to do things your way!
Do you really think you will never find love or happiness again? No way! It may not seem possible now; but, life has much more joy in store, including the possibility of the most meaningful love you have ever had! This is merely a detour on your life’s journey! Understandably, divorce was not in your original game plan; but then, here you are! Let’s make the best of this!
It might seem difficult to talk yourself down from the ledge when you’re paralyzed by fear and sadness. When you face a fear, size it up, and analyze its demise, you suck much of its power away so that it’s not as deadly. You may still experience the fallout of bad things; but, you will be better prepared to handle what they bring your way instead of being petrified with fear! Fear, and even bad things, will always be some part of our lives, we just have to be sure to not let them overshadow everything positive or keep us from achieving the best that we can.
What is the worst-case scenario?