How to handle those “What if’s”

“Can you explain how to deal with the “What If’s?” I have ridiculous ones that pop into my head,some are just plannig survival too far ahead others are imagination and waaaaay too destructive! (Like the time I was walking down some large circling stairs with a pup in my arms and began to think “What if the pup wriggles loose and falls between the banister rails down the stair well to the floor beneath” and spent five minutes sitting down on the stairs til I could move on…..what was the point of that!”

It is interesting to me that most of the questions I am seeing are all around our unconscious mind being able to TRUST us — and us knowing when and how to trust our unconscious.

What if?s are usually thought of as being useful — thinking through the What if?s helps us develop a thorough plan, making sure we don’t have any loose ends.

Sometimes, though, it seems that useful skill almost turns against us.

It can happen in several ways:

Sometimes it is something called “Escalation”– where one what if leads to another and another and another — and we end up so overwhelmed we can’t even get in our car to go see our horse.

How to handle this? SMALL STEPS: if the thought of going to the yard leads to thinking of your horse barging and bucking and you looking a fool in front of other people — then agree with yourself that you will not do that. Instead you will just go to the yard and sit there for ten minutes. and THEN see what you feel like doing.

The “just go for ten minutes” approach works well, as it proves that you are listening to yourself….

Another way it can seem to turn against us is in your example — where it starts presenting us with rather ridiculous and improbable What if?s. Now usually in these cases, the ridiculous thing is not what is really bothering us at all — we are bothered by something else but can’t admit it, so our brain latches onto something like dropping the puppy.

In the example you share, I know that *I* would have been a bit bothered by a large circling stair case — I used to have major fear of heights and some residual worry is still there, more as a habit than anything else — so for me, the worry about the puppy would have been my brain’s way of expressing a fear I do not want to express (I do not like to think heights bother me) in a way I would notice it rather than dismiss it…

Have you ever told yourself you feel fine about riding — and then you can’t find your car keys? or can’t do the tack up? or suddenly become very worried about how tidy your house is and what if someone comes round?

These are all the same mechanism… and the best way to handle them is to sit down and acknowledge what you are actually scared of…which could be something totally different to what you are what iffíng about….

So in summary, the apparently negative and spiralling “what if?s” all come from your unconscious trying to get you to pay attention to something that is bothering you….

Now you then continued your question with this comment:

“I bought my horse a new saddle because I decided the wings would make it more difficult for me to be bucked off,then…just as I had my foot in the stirrup I thought “But if I can’t get bucked off I can’t get off quickly” and completely spoilt the moment!”

This is a great example of your brain trying to keep you safe! Your mind didn’t believe you had thought through how you would get off in a hurry if you wanted to — had you?

In this scenario, practicing getting off at the halt and walk would have proved you could still get off easily — and the “what if” would have been useful in getting you to develop the skill to do so in a new saddle.

In many cases you can retrain your brain to focus on useful what ifs — this takes a bit of discipline — but if you have a friend it can be fun too…

Create a game where every time you think of doing something, you deliberately what if? it — to ridiculous levels, take it to such an extreme that you and your friend end up laughing — take it FURTHER than your brain wants to go — this will get the negatives out of your system, and then you and your friend can sit down and go through the what if?s more rationally…

I hope this gives you some starting points on handling those what if?s….

your in confidence,



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