Thursday, March 22, 2012

Anticipating Trouble.

When I was new to Al-Anon, one old-timer in my home group had a few stock phrases which used to make me gnash my teeth in silent irritation. (I've become so much less irritable, that I might almost be a different species than the frightened, anxious, angry woman who first entered an Al-Anon meeting 26 years ago.)

One of this member's pet phrases was: "Don't awfulise."  I found this supremely annoying when I was the recipient, because I believed that anticipating trouble was nothing more than careful planning. I didn't understand that she was simply trying to offer the crazed newcomer that I was, a way to find some serenity from the madhouse between my ears. I understood it to mean that she thought I was exaggerating, and I felt offended. I thought she was oversimplifying, and that my life was far too complicated for little two-word phrases to be of any help.

Now, as is the way in 12-Step, I say to my sponsees, when they begin to get themselves worked up about what might happen if this, or that, or even that takes place, "I think you're awfulising. Try to stay in the moment."

Staying in the moment means that I must completely, willingly, with gratitude, give up all of the mental tortures with which I occupied so much of my time. Anticipating trouble took up a great deal of my waking hours. I could work out huge long interconnected horrifying possibilities, and create much misery for myself doing it. I'd imagine a terrible outcome, and then feel depressed about it.

That's insanity, to be feeling upset and depressed about an imaginary outcome. My first sponsor pointed out that these outcomes were never positive, only and always negative. I was scaring the dickens out of myself with things that might never happen. She taught me to pay attention to my internal dialogue, and when I started up anticipating trouble, to "switch channels" to the one in which my Higher Power was taking good care of me, and I could just go for a dogwalk and relax.

"I am an old man and have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened."

                                                                                         Mark Twain

Some of your hurts you have cured,
And the sharpest you still have survived,
But what torments of grief you endured
From the evil which never arrived.

~Ralph Waldo Emerson


  1. I did not think I would relate to this until I thought about it. So many times, I would (and still) freeze up with the assumption that if I asked for help or brought up something to another person, that they would be rude to me or think I was stupid. I get so worked up that I just dread the time when I finally take action. What a huge relief occurs when none of what I fear happens. Thank you for your thoughts! Take care!

  2. Awfulise! I like that! I'm going to use it...on myself!

    1. I like it too. I am the Queen of this and honestly hadn't really realized. I keep thinking of all the awful things that might happen in my future...why aren't I looking at all the wonderful things that might happen?

  3. I do my best not to project occurrences. I am very much fact driven so if there is nothing that factually indicates a problem, I don't borrow trouble. Good reminder in this post.

  4. Thank so much for that post. I had been looking for the Emerson quote and forgotten who said that one. It is so true and profoundly timeless. I recently heard at a meeting that we need boundaries for our monkey mind: to always ask these 3 P's about our inner dialogue: Is it Present? Is it Positive? Is it Personal (or any of my business)? And then if so, What do I need to do about this if anything and when?
    Otherwise it stays in the God box indefinitely, only to be examined as needed with sponsor or our HP. --in other words don't go into our head alone for it is a bad neighborhood. Shar-anon

  5. I just found your blog a week or so ago when my husband was leaving rehab and it was suggested that I go to al anon. I was worried about not hearing from my husband and fearing the worst when I said several prayers then decided to look on your blog to see what you had to say. This was just what I needed!! Thank you for sharing your wisdom!! I think I need al anon!