“Things are going so well…I’m really nervous. Something bad is bound to happen now!”
Have you ever heard or thought something like this before? “The other shoe is going to drop” sentiment is a common pothole on the road to recovery. Sadly, this type of thinking prevents many people from allowing themselves to fully experience healing and wholeness.
At The Center, we hear these types of statements frequently for many reasons. Some people fear that if they are well, too much will be expected of them. Others say that they don’t deserve good things. Still others believe God or the universe is punishing them. None of these are true, but it is understandable to think them, nonetheless. Why?
Hope can be frightening if one thinks good fortune will always end in pain. For us to function well, it is important that our life, and by extension our pain, makes sense. We have a deep-seated understanding that things happen for a reason, so when something goes wrong, we want to understand “why”. At times, we will put two and two together and find everything except four! If we cannot clearly see what is happening, our brain will add whatever is needed to “make it all make sense”. This process is called, “Interpretation” – and it is not always accurate.
Interpretations such as the one at the start of this article are distortions of truth and are not logically sound. We don’t always pay attention and notice this. We tend to trust our own snap judgments if they are based on something at least a little true. Imagine you are promoted at work in the morning, but that same evening, the transmission on your car goes out. If you then say, “I knew something bad was going to happen!” you would be putting your faith in a non sequitur. A non sequitur is something that does not naturally or logically come from whatever preceded it. The truth here is that something bad happened on the same day as something good. However, it is not true that the bad thing was caused by the good thing.
Things in life may appear connected when they are not. It behooves us to notice the truth of the matter. Some common, related cause and effect non sequiturs are:
The actual effect did not match the intended cause. We put a great deal of effort into a friend’s surprise birthday party (intended cause) and they are not happy when the walk in the door and hear their friends yell, “surprise!” (actual effect). If you think your friend is ungrateful, when in fact they simply do not like surprises (actual cause) then you may believe they are not worthy of all your work. The truth is, it may have been better along the way to find out if they like surprises.
There is sometimes a delay in the effect. We join an online dating site. We go out with the first person who responds to our ad with any kindness at all. After a few dates, we agree to more than we want to give. The relationship eventually ends and we say to ourselves that we are not loveable. The truth is, going too fast laid a poor foundation for the relationship and over time it crumbled. Haste, then, was the likely cause for the demise of the relationship, not our worthiness to be loved. We play a part (poor judgment) often because we believe the non sequitur (that we are unlovable) – so we think we better grab someone quick!. It is easy to get lost in such cycles.
Not seeing the actual effect. We go to school every day and do all of our homework (cause), but we only land a minimum wage job out of college. It takes two years to be hired at the job you trained for in school (effect). It is a misperception to believe that the minimum wage job is the direct result of the schooling. The truth is most likely related to the economy, your confidence level in applying for jobs, the expectations in the field, or some other related reason.
To combat these cause and effect challenges, it is necessary to be mindful. At The Center, we help people learn this. We know that good things don’t happen to you because you are good…and bad things don’t happen because you are bad – or vice versa. Both “bad” and “good” will occur in this life for many reasons. If you want to change the game and have more positive experiences, then you will need to develop the goals, awareness, and self-discipline needed to accomplish this. At The Center we know that taking time out to cultivate these and to learn to see and speak the truth can lead to the abundant life you really want!
Written by Hannah Smith, MA LMHC CGP, Group Therapy Program Coordinator, she is a Neuroscience-informed, Licensed Therapist and International Board Certified Group Psychotherapist. Hannah’s passion is to see people reach their potential and find lasting, positive change. The Center • A Place of Hope, located on the Puget Sound in Edmonds, Washington, creates individualized programs to treat behavioral and mental health issues, including eating disorders, addiction, depression, anxiety, and more.