Whatifing and whatising By Shelley Roy

Swimming in a pool of thoughts?

With everything happening in the world today, you may feel as if your thoughts are overflowing, flooding your mind or maybe you’re trapped in a whirlpool of thoughts that aren’t serving you and you don’t know how to get out. It doesn’t matter if you are working from home, are an essential worker, or on the front lines of this pandemic, you may find you are drifting into some unhealthy thought patterns. I have heard some label this time as THE GREAT PAUSE. Now maybe a good time to pause and reflect on what thoughts you are generating and how they are impacting your sense of well-being. Knowing your thought tendencies can serve you well and be the catalyst for helpful changes. Which way do you lean - do you tend to think what if - or perhaps you focus more on what is. Maybe you float between the two.

Are you a Whatifer ?

What if - thinkers tend to immerse themselves in the past or fantasize about the future. In and of itself what if thinking is neither healthy or unhealthy. It is when you simply tread water in the pool of what if - you begin to miss out on the here and now. You can drown in a pool of inaction. Whatifing requires imagineering - both imagining and engineering. There are two types of whatifing , future whatifing and past whatifing.

Future Whatifing

The upside of future whatifing is creativity. It’s a place where you are able to dream, explore possibilities, invent, and work through multiple solutions. It is fed with a sense of curiosity, hope and risk-taking. It is the world of day-dreamers. The downside of future whatifing is that if you swim in it too long it can lead to inaction.

Past Whatifing

If however, you are a Past Whatifer you may become obsessed with trying to change something in your past that cannot be changed, blocking you from living in the present. Or risking becoming outer focused caught in the deep waters of guilting, blaming and shaming. This can lead to not taking responsibility for your own life. There is however one time when dipping your toe into the past can be a healthy practice. That is when you want to learn from past life experiences and apply those lessons in the present.

Are you a WhatIser?

When you attend to what-is you deeply understand the current situation. You go beyond simply observations and notice details, context and nuances. You have a keen sense of awareness. This type of thinking can be beneficial when getting focused and taking action is called for, especially when moving towards self-improvement. You may avoid this type of thinking when it gets too uncomfortable - for example when there is a big gap between what is and where/who you want to be. When the gap is large it can feel as if you will have to swim upstream against a strong current and you may give in before you start.

Healthy Whatising

If you are a Healthy Whatiser you are aware of yourself, your strengths and weaknesses, and your surroundings. You accept the present without judgment and labeling. You focus on the parts of life within your control. You gather information from a wide range of sources and are flexible in your interpretation of others and the world around you. Life flows and you go with the flow.

Unhealthy Whatising

Whatising can become unhealthy if it drowns you in self-pity, excuse-making, unrealistic expectations, or you become fixated on the parts of the situation you cannot control. If you find yourself becoming biased, labeling - what is - using dichotomous language such as good/bad, right/wrong, positive/negative, or limiting information to fit your belief system you may have crossed into unhealthy waters. Being Pollyannaish can also be an indicator of murky thinking. If you feel hopeless, disheartened, or bored it is time to swim in another direction. Prolonged Unhealthy Whatising, will diminish your enjoyment of life, friends, and family and manifest as physical fatigue.

Byron Katie suggests when you are swimming in the Thought Pond of What Is, that you take time to pause and examine your thinking. Ask yourself: “Is this thought true?” “Are you sure?” “What happens when you have this thought?” “Who would you be without this thought?” I would add two more questions: “What leads you to believe it is true?” and “What concrete evidence (from reliable sources) support this thought?”

Float -Relax -Reflect

Every swimmer has their favorite stroke one that comes easily for them and one they rely on. Even the best swimmers know there are times you need to pause and just float - relax every muscle in your body and let the water support you. A good swimmer also practices other strokes to prepare for the situations in which a different stroke will serve them best. Thinking is much the same. You may have a preference to your established thought patterns, ones you rely on, still, there are times you need to float, relax, reflect on how your thinking is serving you. Having other thinking patterns within reach can be life-saving. Just as successful swimmers practice many different strokes, so too a healthy person can perform well by exploring different forms of thinking.

You can find me on Twitter @MiamiEdGuru and on the web at www.MiamiEdGuru.com


Created with images by TALAVIYA RAHUL - "untitled image" • processingly - "untitled image" • Yannes Kiefer - "untitled image" • Angelo Pantazis - "untitled image" • Gage Walker - "She thinks she looks dirty. I tell her it’s cool. “Whatever”, she says."