A dear friend of mine has an unusual and unsettling knack that, after years of being blindsided by it, I’ve decided is actually a gift. At times when I’m particularly troubled by the potential outcome of a situation, she looks at me and calmly asks, “What’s the worst thing that could happen?” Then, before I even have a chance to answer, she names it: the most terrible, horrible, no good, very bad possibility I could’ve dared to imagine. The one that’s been lurking in the dark, under my bed, around the edge of my subconscious. The one keeping me up at night and stealing my peace.

Once she speaks this worst-case scenario out loud, we look at it dead on, unflinching. Then she matter-of-factly says, “Okay, so this will probably happen. And if it does, you’ll deal with it, survive, and move on.” Although the outcome itself doesn’t improve, I’m forced to see beyond it — to a future where I endured the worst and lived to tell, where I was forced to bend but did not break.

I’ve been the recipient of these unorthodox pep talks several times over the years, and surprisingly, they never fail to help. Speaking my worst fears out loud, acknowledging them, and then accepting them as likely outcomes helps break their grip on me more effectively than living in a state of unnamed dread.

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