Have you ever spent so much time focused on a project, or aspect of your life, that it feels like it is coming constantly unglued and now you are feeling an avalanche of anxiety because things aren’t working out right in this thing you’ve put so much energy into? It drives you to either dedicate more time and energy to working it out or quit with an exasperated sigh.
It is like playing a football game where the other side keeps scoring points and you are trying to catch up. You want all those points back as soon as possible, so you attempt to score as quickly as possible. In doing so, we often help the opposition. We’re disorganized, working from a place of chaos, flailing in all directions as we desperately try to get back in the game.
The power of accidental revelations are that they come when we aren’t focused on them. We are the recipient of a random act of kindness, an unanticipated compliment, or find out in unexpected ways that what one feared or was anxious about wasn’t a big a deal as we thought it was.
Recently, a member told me about “accidently outing” herself to someone she’d been deeply concerned would react poorly to her doing so. A conversation had taken an unexpected turn, causing the member to talk about something peripherally related to her gender identity. At one point, the conversation had the member demonstrating a curiously deep knowledge of women’s clothing given that the person she was talking to had always seen her as male. There was now a choice between whether to reveal this part of herself to this individual or to concoct a made-up story to try to cover her tracks.
“Oh, hey, I didn’t know. That’s cool.”
It was not the reaction she expected, but a large weight was suddenly lifted. This is not the way it always works. Sometimes the worst case scenario plays out, but not as often as we expect it to.
The cumulative effect of perseveration, fixating on a thought repetitively beyond the point of being rational about it, often leads you into believing the worse case scenario is the only possible outcome. A member once talked to me about being married for ten years, all while keeping her crossdressing a secret from her wife, spent most of that time in the grip of fear and anxiety over her finding out and then condemning the member to be locked in a back closet that would then be set on fire while random villagers gathered in the street and cheered with torches in their hands. You’ve seen these fleeting images in your mind. You know you have. Don’t try to deny it.
One day, this member decided to come out to her wife and reveal the “dark secret” she’d been hiding. Her wife smiled, put her arm on the member’s shoulder, and said, “Yeah, I know, but it was about time you got around to telling me.”
These aren’t always the outcomes, but neither are the ones we anticipate and expect. Don’t let yourself get frightened into inaction by perseverating on worst case scenarios and doom-filled outcomes. Sometimes it goes really wrong. Sometimes it goes unexpectedly right. Usually it is somewhere in between.
Sometimes you have to get out of the bed before you can find out if there really is a floor.