How could this be worse-A strange and effective coping tool! A friend taught me this little tidbit about 30 years ago and it continues to serve me well.
When I was in my late 20’s, I joined a women’s spirituality group. We were quite eclectic. There was a lot of both direct and incidental learning that happened in our gatherings.
One of the women talked about playing the “How could this be worse” game in her head as a coping strategy. She said…Whenever you find yourself in a frustrating situation, start imagining all the ways it could be worse. Then suddenly, whatever you’re dealing with doesn’t seem quite so bad! I was skeptical, but filed it in my brain under “someday” anyway.
Just a few weeks later, I found myself stuck on the freeway. There was an accident somewhere up ahead and three lanes of traffic were dead stopped for like 2 hours! This was before cell phones. I was alone. I knew my husband would be worried but there wasn’t one proactive thing I could do.
We were newly married and broke. My car was like 17 years old, literally! It was a ‘73 copper colored Cutlass that I’d driven since high school. Her name was Emma. I knew I was flirting with disaster. It was a warm and sunny afternoon. Prolonged idling meant there was an ever increasing likelihood of overheating. Then I remembered something that I’d heard on an NPR car show. If you’re worried about overheating, crank up the heat in your car. It’ll draw the heat away from the engine and it’ll give you more time on the road. So that’s what I did. I was miserable but Emma kept running!
I was anxious. I tried to take a spiritual perspective. I thought “ok, this is a lesson in surrendering.” I have to trust that all is and will be well. And that helped for about 90 seconds! Now what…?
Then I remembered my friend talking about the “How could this be worse” game. So I started to play it. I believe I may have even spoken out loud, all by myself. How could this be worse….It could be 90 degrees with the heat running instead of 75 degrees. That’d be worse. I could be stuck here with _______(listing about 8 people I would NOT want to be locked in a hot car with). Yup. That’d be a lot worse. And on and on I went. And seriously, I started to feel better! What a relief!
I have played this little coping game many times over the years. When I was in the hospital with my surgically corrected broken arm and cracked kneecap and feeling terrified….because all that on top of a neuro muscular disease means serious incapacitation….I played the “How could this be worse” game. And it helped. It calmed me right down.
I’m a big believer in gratitude and in counting my blessings. But sometimes the blessings are so well camouflaged that they’re impossible to see….that is until I think of all the ways things could be worse. Playing this game will propel me into gratitude at warp speed EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. Because, let’s face it, as long as we’re breathing, things could ALWAYS be worse.
If you ever find yourself in need of a shift in perspective, give the “How could this be worse” game a shot. You never know; you might like it!
Oh and Emma and I did fine. After 2 hours everyone was ushered off the freeway into downtown. I was lost but managed to find my way back to the freeway and finish my journey!
I’m glad you’re here 😊
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