Wouldn’t it be Worse! – a way to handle frustrations and disappointment

       I was out walking with Handsome a few days ago, when a car sped past us, cutting off another car, and nearly hitting a parked one.  Handsome muttered to me, “That idiot thinks being late to where he’s going is the worst thing that could happen to him.”

       I’ll bet he was right.  I’ll bet that driver didn’t even imagine all the awful things that might have happened just on our block.  Side-swiping a car, hitting a person they didn’t see stepping out, or… I’m shuddering at the thought… what if I’d managed to wriggle out of my collar and run across the street to chase a squirrel just as he was speeding around…!

       We got home, and Handsome sat down at his computer, and, as usual, started stressing out.  A check he’d written hadn’t gotten cashed because he’d accidentally written the date as still 2023.  His phone was malfunctioning, and he knew it would take at least an hour of waiting to get the phone company to do anything about it.  And a friend of his had said Handsome had done something he hadn’t done, making him defensive. 

       He muttered one thing after another under his breath, and eventually, as we dogs are very sensitive to energies, I had to leave the room and lie down far away from him.  I hate doing that – what if he was eating something and dropped some and I wasn’t there to eat it?!

       But lying on that other room’s rug, I started to think about the silly tension he was in, and that stupid driver.  Those two humans have something in common, though I hate to insult my beloved guy.  They both lack imagination!

       You see, we dogs hardly ever feel long-term stress.  We’ll go absolutely nuts when we see another dog walking outside our home, but that tension goes away once the dog does.  And those of us who’ve been abused or neglected live in fear of what we can’t control, just like a person.   But what we don’t do is worry about what might happen later, sometime far from now. 

       When Handsome leaves me at home, I sleep, watch the squirrels, chew on things… all while deeply wishing he’d come back so I could feel fully secure.  But I don’t think about what might happen if he didn’t come home.

       Now you humans have the opposite problem.  Your giant minds allow you to picture lots of scenarios.  If you were in my situation, you might think you’d never be fed again, that you’d be trapped in the yard and starve to death, that someone bad would come by and you’d have no one to yell at them to go away (oh wait, actually that’s MY job!). 

       But what I saw in that driver, and in Handsome, is that their imaginations didn’t go far enough!

       Maybe that driver was imagining being late to work, and getting yelled at by their boss.  But as I said above, one could imagine many worse problems than that.

       And Handsome at his desk?  Upset that he might have to pay a late fee for that check?  Why didn’t he think about all that cyber-crime we hear about on the news and imagine how bad it would be if all the money in his bank were wiped out!  He’s upset he has to spend an hour waiting for the phone company?  Why not think about what it would be like if all his phone service was gone, and everyone else’s too? He’s bothered that his friend accused him wrongly of something?  What about imagining if one of his friends went crazy, like in one of those movies, and came at him with a big knife or an axe?!  Or if his friend just dropped him completely, and never spoke to him again?

       Awful as these imaginings are, I know that if he let his brain go to them, his stress would actually reduce instantly!  What you think is the “Worst Case Scenario” almost certainly isn’t.

       Now don’t get me wrong.  There are people today living in true worst-cases.  In Israel and Gaza, in Ukraine, in Myanmar, in the Maghreb, and other war-torn horrors.  People starving to death, people being killed by their own governments.  I’m not recommending to these people that they cheer up and wag their tails – they are truly living in Hell. 

       But for the rest of you…  When that boy you are crazy about breaks up with you, I know it feels like the world’s ending, but really he’s just proving that he wasn’t the partner you deserve. Wouldn’t it be worse to marry him and find out he’s a serial killer?!  Have some fun with that! 

When you fail that test that keeps you from moving forward into the career you’ve always dreamt of, go ahead and cry it out, but then realize that another career will be a better fit for you.  Wouldn’t it be worse to work in that dream field, but only with people who don’t like you and who treat you horribly?  I’ve seen that happen and it’s rotten!

And when you get a bodily injury that will stay with you for life, that just stinks!  But at least you get to live on with it, right?

Here’s another way to look at it.  A lot of people say that the worst pain any person can ever go through is the loss of their child.  I have no trouble believing that.  But I’m going to bet you know someone who’s lost their kid, maybe not in childhood but at least by outliving them. They HAVE suffered that pain, they DO suffer that pain… and yet they go on, somehow, into the next day.  They HAVE suffered the “worst case,” and they’re here.  Damaged, sure, but still able to look for meaning and happiness in their lives.

So what’s the “worst case” for you?  To be late for work, or to hit and kill a stranger with your car?  To find a bunch of irritations on your computer, or to… have your dog walk away to avoid your bad vibes?!

In summary: Life can get better.  All you need to do is to imagine how it can get so much worse!

PS: That was my full essay, but Handsome just read it and asked me about that one line about my running into the street to chase a cat.  “What’s the worst case for you, Shirelle?  Letting the cat go, or getting hit by a car as you chase her?”

Okay.  I guess we dogs can be dumb about this one too.

Arrggh… I just HATE it when he’s right! 

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LadyFi - March 18, 2024 Reply

Hi Shirelle,

I really enjoyed your insights on this, and have another example and use of “worst case” to share with you.

A few years ago I broke up with someone and carried a lot of bitterness and resentment for a long time – especially because he found someone else right after me! But then I thought “What if he had DIED instead of going away? How would I feel then?” Suddenly I felt a wave of huge sorrow and grief and – most importantly – GRATITUDE. I was able to remember all the good things about him and all the wonderful things he had brought to my life that stayed even after he went away. Amazingly, all that ugly bitterness and resentment just washed away in that moment – it was as though reimagining the scenario helped my brain and emotions to regroup, and I’ve been fine ever since.

Keep up the good work, girlfriend.

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