We came close to having a terrible accident driving to the airport this morning.
It was pitch black. The rain was coming down in torrents. Huge bolts of lightning were striking the hills in front of us. Suddenly a small sedan to our left hydroplaned, and came careening across the expressway, only to skid within inches of us. The driver hit the pylons to our right, spinning completely around in front of us, ending with headlights facing the wrong way.
We sped past. My heart was racing. My husband, who was driving, gripped the wheel.
It was a terrifying near miss.
All I could think about was our son. How hard it would be for him to lose both of us at once. And praying that others behind us would avoid the same kind of scare, and possible tragedy.
We are all vulnerable to potential hurt and loss at any time. So most of us cloak ourselves in healthy denial that horrible things might happen in the next moment. When on a plane, we don’t imagine it going down. When we go to the doctor for a minor ailment, we don’t expect to hear that we have cancer. Yet there are people who do. Persistent worry and dread about those things will earn you a diagnosis of Generalized Anxiety Disorder, which reflects huge amounts of time spent in expecting disaster. It’s a terrible problem to have, and can take all the joy out of living.
Positive psychology would answer that it’s just as likely that something good will happen, and focusing on things you can do, think or say that’s optimistic.
How do you keep balance? How do you become good at thinking through things, and proactively trying to prevent pain or loss? Yet on the other hand, maybe you’re trying so hard to predict something bad happening, that you are sabotaging the present by worrying about the future? You’re staying agitated, or becoming negative.
We’ve all watched our favorite sports figures warm up before a game. They stretch. They run through their routines. They are either very serious, head phones on, keeping the world at bay. Or they’re reaching out to their fellow players, giving encourage and support.
They’ve been taught to prepare. And they’re doing the things positive psychologists would say are key to a a healthy life.
Head phones in — a kind of meditation. A focus on what’s both mentally inspiring and physically relaxing. Stretching (exercise) — getting to know the state of their body in that moment of time. Being gentle but firm with it. Connecting with other players — honoring the vast importance of connection. Those are the things that man or woman has control over in the moment.
Vulnerability exists in every moment. Learning to deal with the anxiety of it is an important skill.
Perhaps Alcoholic’s Anonymous serenity prayer is helpful.
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.
I’d love your comments below!. Or you can join in on FaceBook or Twitter with the hashtag #VulnerabilityMakesMeStronger.
You can hear more about anxiety and many other topics by listening to Dr. Margaret’s new podcast, SelfWork with Dr. Margaret Rutherford. Subscribe to this website and receive her weekly posts as well as her podcasts, plus Dr. Margaret’s eBook, “Seven Commandments of Good Therapy.”