Is that your friend across the street? You wave cheerfully, shout out “Hiya!”, and… she barely makes eye contact while muttering a half-hearted “Morning”.
Cue the whirlwind in your mind! “What have I done wrong? Have I said something I shouldn’t? Did I forget her birthday? Her cat’s birthday? Doesn’t she like me anymore? Is our friendship over?”
Fair play to our thoughts, they are indefatigable - in an average day, we have around 4,000! They can be very convincing, too – and it’s the negative ones which are particularly adept at bending your ear, by dressing up as facts and posing as certain doom. You might know all about confirmation bias, you might have been told countless times that “thoughts are not facts”, but especially if you’re feeling anxious, chances are you’ll find yourself nodding at those thoughts that confirm your fears, and taking their word for it… regardless of all those times that you found your worries were completely unjustified.
How do you break that spell? You might be thinking, “But this thought might be true, I might have said something wrong”. Yes, maybe you did. Just don’t stop there: what other possibilities are there? Your friend might have trouble sleeping. Her car might have broken down. Her dog might be at the vet’s with a poorly tummy. Maybe she forgot to put the bins out. Or she has a migraine, or she had an argument, or she was daydreaming… yes, it does take some effort to turn away from the negative interpretations, but when you start reeling off the options, it’s hard to stop!
All of this won’t give you an answer – you’ll have to ask your friend for that. What it will give you is a wider perspective, a sense of space, of possibilities. And that perspective, in turn, will calm the anxiety, tone down the noise in your head, give you more clarity, confidence, peace of mind – and possibly help you to reach out to your friend and hear all about her partner drilling into the water pipe!