Planning for bad things to happen and why you need to be specific!

Planning for bad things to happen, trying to prevent bad things, or expecting the worse take up time and can affect your mood and how you feel about yourself and can even stop you from getting things that you want from life.

I want to talk about why you might need to plan for the worse, what it does to you, and hopefully, help you understand why this happens. I will start with some examples before talking to you about why this happens and whether or not it does any good.

Why do I always expect bad things to happen?

I can give you a few answers, but I need to take apart the question first to give you an answer that will make sense to your particular case.  First, I need to consider what you mean by ‘expecting bad things to happen.’

OCD/Intrusive Thoughts and expecting bad things to happen

If you have OCD and are worried that something bad might happen, this can be about yourself or others, and I shall give a few examples now.

Expecting bad things to happen to yourself

  • You might get sick or injure yourself
  • You might do something wrong or immoral
  • You might have an accident

Expecting bad things to happen to others

  • They could get sick or have an accident

Afraid of doing something terrible or upsetting others by accident

Many of you reading this now might fall into this category, so I shall give some examples.

  • Not wanting to say or do the wrong thing
  • Not wanting to hurt or offend other people
  • Not wanting to put your foot in it

The one thing they all have in common is that they are not very specific and, therefore, quite hard to pin down and predict.  You must understand what I mean when I say ‘specific’, and I shall explain that now by giving an example.

Not specific worry

  • I am worried that something bad might happen

More specific

  • I am worried that I might get sick
  • I am worried that I might have stomach cramps

Very specific worry

  • I am worried that I might have stomach cramps at 3 pm today
important point in worrying about bad things

The ‘specific’ bit is significant. If you worry that bad things might happen, let me explain.  If you have an intrusive thought that something bad might happen and something ‘bad’ does happen, you probably think that this is because of your original thought, that you were right to worry, but not only is this not helpful, it is not correct.

If you are worried that something bad might happen and the following things happen over the course of the day, week or year.

  • lose your purse (today)
  • sprain your wrist (two days)
  • argue (next week)
  • don’t get the job (next month)

You would probably see one or more of the ‘bad things’ as evidence for your worry, but bad things happen, regardless of whether you worry about them or plan for them.

Why being specific is essential.

If you are not specific, like in the example above – worried that you will get sick and something does happen, you have no concrete evidence to say it was related to your worry or that the compulsions you carry out help in any way.

If you want to reduce the amount of time you spend worrying about bad things that might happen or if you are trying to reduce compulsions, I would recommend the following.

Be specific and select a time frame.

If you get an intrusive thought and try to reduce or eliminate your compulsion, be specific with your worry.  For example, rather than worrying, “I will get sick, ” be specific and note how you will get sick, what time this will start, and what time it will end.  In doing so, you are setting up a good experiment to see if your worries come true.

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