Now that I no longer have this problem, it’s safe to tell you about it:
I used to be a scanner.
I lived on “high alert” much of the time. I spent a lot of energy looking out for things/people/situations that could hurt me and the people I love, and then I would practice making up response scenarios.
Our armed forces, terrorist response teams, and fire and medical people train in similar ways, except there are very real reasons those professionals need the training. I was just a highly skilled amateur.
If you always felt safe in life and haven’t the first clue how a scanner lives, let me bring you up to speed real quick.
Here’s what living as a scanner is like:
You scan your environment for trouble.
If you’re already in trouble, you get busy. Since you tend to be an overly-responsive (reactive?) sort of person, basically, you take a bazooka to every threat, real or fancied.
Then, you talk about it. To everyone. Ad nauseum. Because you just gotta have your reassurance, right?
If you don’t see any trouble, it’s because you’re not looking hard enough. So, you rescan.
OR, you are pretty certain that, though everything is okay right at this moment, in just a moment or two it won’t be, so you start
MAKING SHIT UP!
That’s right. You get to work on your “what if?” scenario plans.
What if – your partner leaves you and you have to pay all the bills by yourself?
What if – you get laid off and you can’t find work?
What if – your kid’s teacher keeps haranguing him?
What if – so and so in the family doesn’t start living “right/” (As you define “right.”)
What if – the war in the Middle East escalates, or goes on another decade?
What if – there really is(n’t) global warming?
What if – this shit about gluten is real?
What if – my whole life has been a charade – a farce – a lie of epic proportions?
You see how this stuff escalates?
Here’s what makes breaking out of the scanning habit tricky: there is real and actual TRUTH to each of your worst-case scenarios. Yep. A whole lot of this bad stuff happens EVERY SINGLE DAY to other, unsuspecting, hapless non-planners.
(By the way, can anyone clue me in on the kind of “hap” that is opposite to “hapless?”)
Here’s the thing: Making scary shit up is not especially the best plan for a joyous life. Indeed, Manufactured Misery is a highly infectious disease. (click to tweet.)
Manufactured misery starts at one localized place, but then quickly spreads to the healthy psychological tissue that is adjacent to the original point of entry.
Your original worry is confined to thus and such, but then, as you’re planning for your response to this or that, it occurs to you that so and so and this thing or the other could also prove troublesome. So you gotta pile that worry on.
Manufactured Misery is also quick to change hosts. When you are a doomsday lover, you tend to infect others. People who live more fearlessly just don’t hang out much with scanners. It’s too hard to be around chronically unhappy and frightened people.
If you’re feeling angry at me right about now, let me assure you that I totally get it! I’ve been there. I, too, have wasted whole chunks of my life stuck in worry, self-pity, doubt, and indecision.
It’s hard to face the fact that that time is gone and lost forever.
Sometimes it feels less painful to attack the messenger instead. Attacking, by the way, looks like this:
“I hear you, Jen. But my case is different. You see . . . (launch into justification of why you’ve chosen to live in fear.)
“Well, that’s easy for you to say, Jen. If you had MY problems/family/health situation . . . (launch into justification of why you’ve chosen to live in fear.)
“Who the eff are you to judge me, Jen? We haven’t even met! You have NO CLUE what I’ve been through! (launch into small rant followed by justification of why you’ve chosen to live in fear followed by hitting that “unsubscribe” link at the bottom of my message to Beautiful YOU!)
Here’s who I am: I’m the abandoned daughter of a dead alcoholic father who spent her childhood planning her “escape.” I then went on to have a year or two of false security followed by a marriage that ended a decade or so after I held my baby while she died. I then was left to support my small family by myself with NO JOB and a legal system that DOES NOT adequately support custodial parents. Oh, PLUS I have my own potentially fatal disease or two.
Or, maybe THIS is who I am: I’m a woman like most others who has had my share of trouble and heartache. Living through the tough times taught me a LOT about how to triumph over all forms of adversity. And the hard times also allowed the beauty in my life to stand out in gorgeous stark relief. I’m happy because I have KNOWN sad. Each state defines the other.
There are so many other versions of myself I could define as “absolute truth” in my life. Today, I choose to tell myself the versions of my own truth that serve me and others the most.
I am a retired scanner. Every now and then I find myself unconsciously looking for doom in all the wrong places.
And then, I come back.
Right here. Right now.
In this moment, between these two breaths. I pause.
All is well.
P.S. Don’t forget to mark your calendars for Wednesday, January 22 at NOON EST for our first monthly coaching seminar. This session is absolutely FREE but is ONLY available to subscribed members of our community.
If you want access to these exclusive sessions, we would love to have you. Please let us know how to reach you moving forward.
photo: flickr, evil erin