Exercise: How to Uncover What You’re Actually Afraid Of

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I'm a certified coach and work with grumpy girlfriends who want to dump the grump and enjoy their good relationships.

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Heartbreak, being left, getting cheated on, or being lied to are all common fears in relationships. Fears that, if not managed, turn into jealousy, insecurity, and grumpiness. For some, it goes so far that everything revolves around looking for signs and preparing for the worst-case scenarios. But what is it you’re actually afraid of?

I want you to grab a pen and paper so you can follow along during this exercise.

Step 1: The Worst-Case Scenario

I want you to draw a timeline horizontally along the piece of paper. The start of your timeline is today and the end of your timeline is when your worst-case scenario happens.

Once you have these points marked out, start defining your worst-case scenario. Describe it. Write down what it is and be specific. Include all the details that make this scenario so much worse than any other scenario that might happen.

For example: At the end of the timeline, my partner accidentally sends me a text that gives away that they have been cheating on me for a long time and been lying to me about it. To make matters worse, it’s with a person I know. And I’m the last person to find out about this affair. Most people already know about it. We break up and I have to find a new place to live.

Step 2: Suffering Ahead of Time

Now I want you to draw a line above the timeline from today all the way to when this worst-case scenario happens. If you have colored pens, I’d recommend making this line red (or any other color you associate with suffering haha). This is your suffering line.

In this scenario, you keep doing what you’re already doing. Looking out for signs, looking out for red flags, always being suspicious, preparing for the worst to happen, being ready for it, suspecting everyone all the time… you know, the normal stuff that feels very productive and important.

Now I want you to ask yourself: What are you going to tell yourself when the worst-case scenario happens at the end of this suffering line? How are you going to think about it? What are you going to feel about the situation? What will you make it mean about yourself?

Write this story above the timeline next to your suffering line.

For example: I knew it all along, I knew this was going to happen, I was right not to trust my partner, I need to listen to my gut feeling more, I saw it coming from miles away. These thoughts would make me feel angry, righteous, frustrated, a little proud of myself, and justified.

Step 3: Choosing Surprise Pain

The second scenario I want you to explore is the one where you don’t see it coming. So now draw a line under the timeline to represent your joy, relaxation, trust, and carefreeness in your relationship. I recommend using green or blue here. And I want you to draw it from today aaaaall the way to the worst-case scenario happening, but stop juuuust before and change the color to red (or your suffering color) to represent when you are caught off guard by the bad thing happening.

In this scenario, you are not prepared for it. You don’t spend all your time being suspicious in order to see it coming. You are just being happy, enjoying yourself in your good relationship, and allowing yourself to be surprised by heartbreak.

Ask yourself: What are you going to tell yourself when the worst-case scenario happens at the end of this joy line? How are you going to think about it? What are you going to feel? What will you make it mean about yourself?

Write this story below the timeline next to your joy line.

For example: I’m so stupid, I should have seen it coming, I’m so naive, I never should have trusted my partner, I never should have been happy, everything was a lie, nothing I experienced was real, I’m the worst person ever, I’m pathetic, how could I let this happen? These thoughts would make me feel shame, embarrassment, guilt, self-loathing, pathetic, and just overall awful.

Here’s what it can look like:

Here’s what I want you to understand: Preparing for pain and seeing it coming doesn’t actually lessen the pain of heartbreak. It doesn’t make it feel good. It doesn’t make getting lied to or cheated on feel fine. The only difference is that when you “see it coming”, you minimize the amount of suffering you inflict on yourself after the bad thing happens.

The reason you are so obsessed with preventing the bad thing from happening is that you don’t have your own back if you’re caught off guard. If you don’t see it coming, if you are surprised by cheating, lying, or a breakup… then you are going to turn on yourself!

THAT is what your brain is trying to prevent from happening by seeing all the signs and never being caught off guard. But I’m here to tell you that bullying yourself as a result of someone else lying to you is OPTIONAL.

If you had your own back instead of turning on yourself when your partner chooses to treat you poorly, then you won’t be as desperate to prevent it from happening in the first place.

Cheating is painful. Heartbreak is painful. It all is supposed to suck. If it doesn’t suck, you’re probably not in a very good relationship, to begin with. So let it suck. Get comfortable processing really painful emotions so you know you can handle them.

The most important tool in order to manage your jealousy and anxiety is to start having your own back if something were to happen. Stop stabbing yourself in the heart because of what someone else chose to do. You do not deserve to shit yourself in the face because you chose to trust and be happy in the relationship you were in. Period.

If you need help changing your relationship with yourself and learning how to manage painful, intense emotions, I’m here for you. Click the image below to read more about my coaching program and schedule your free consultation call today!

xo Katrin

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