When What If Keeps You Up at Night


If I were King of the World the phrase “WHAT-IF” would be stricken from all languages.  People would be banned from uttering these overwhelmingly poisonous words.  What-Iffing is a practice that is extraordinarily common in our society.

In my work What-If is identified as a primary symptom of anxiety.  What-If is a hit man for anxiety, a sadistic pied piper that leads people into a toxic waste dump of  symptomology.

What-If I fail…

What-If I lose my job…

What-If he leaves me….

What-Iffing is akin to dousing a fire with gasoline.


A client I’m working with is a self -proclaimed “gold medalist” at What-Iffing.  She routinely loses sleep worrying about all that could go wrong in her life, having developed an expertize at What-Iffing regarding the social, emotional, and academic success of her teen age daughter.  She sat across from me at a recent session with a look of confusion after I asked her the following question:  “Sally, it occurred to me that with your immense capacity to worry and obsess about all things related to your daughter that you should consider teaching her how to worry, how to become a world class What-Iffer, so that she can learn how to focus on negative outcomes and experience emotional as well as physiological symptoms of anxiety….JUST LIKE YOU!   Perhaps she too can develop high blood pressure and insomnia.  This way you can really role model for her.”  As Sally sat dumbfounded, I continued, “ Or you could take some time right now and learn a most extraordinary therapeutic tool that I call ‘The Art of What-Willing.”

I went on to demonstrate to Sally how What-Willing is the therapeutic polarity of What-Iffing.  Any What-If can be utilized to transform her inner dialogue.  Instead of following the What-Iffs she began to talk to herself in the following manner, “Thank you Ms. What-If for reminding me, What-Will it be like when my daughter achieves her goals? ( It WILL be great)…Thank you Ms. What-If for triggering me to take 3 slow, deep breaths and to focus on all that’s good in my life…Thank you Ms. What-If for cueing me to envision my Best Self…”

Sally began to understand the tremendous value of imagining her future success and happiness as a realistic, meaningful way of living her life.  She learned to close her eyes, breathe deeply and experience her next best self.  As she let go of What-Iffing she began to let go and go with the empowering flow, the artistic glow of What-Willing….

See handout: The Art of What Willing