What if…? If Only…
"What If…?" and "If Only…" are perceptual filters that functions like a black hole in space. In astronomy, a black hole is created when a star collapses in on itself, creating such an intense gravitational pull that nothing can escape, not even light. When you fall for the trap of “what if…,” you enter the Twilight Zone of endless possibilities. This filter feeds powerfully into feelings of anxiety and insecurity. It interacts with the Time Machine, causing you to experience these endless possibilities over and over, as if they were actually happening in the present. When you shift from the Time Machine to looking at possibilities from the perspective of being in the present, it greatly reduces your anxiety.
The truth is that you can not do more than apply the Serenity Prayer in any given situation: “Lord, grant me the serenity to change what I can change, the freedom to release to You what I can’t change, and a growing wisdom to know the difference.” If the answer to the first part is that you have done what you can do up until now, then the second part guides you to release what is left that you can’t change. This allows you to put your focus and energy on becoming in the present. We all have limitations; that is part of being human. Jot down in your journal any examples of “what if…” in your life today. Notice what happens as you practice shifting time perspectives back to the present. Remember that it will get easier with practice.
“If Only…” allows you to punish yourself (or others) for choices not taken. The truth is that you “can’t go to the party I gave yesterday.” It may have been a wonderful party, and you may be very sad about missing it, and feel a lot of regret. No matter how badly you feel, it is impossible to go back in time in order to attend my party. There is a dramatic difference between feeling healthy regret for missed opportunities, and torturing yourself (or others) for having missed that opportunity. If this filter feels familiar, take a few deep breaths, feeling good about noticing this pattern. Begin to experience shifting from shame to regret in these situations. Notice what happens as you learn to respect and feel healthy regret. Share what you notice in your journal.