I did something scary the other day (I can’t remember what it was exactly). And I remember a moment of fear when I thought I would just turn back. So I thought of the worst case scenario and told the world (in my mind) “yeah world, bring it on!”
Whatever it was, it became much less scary.
(Sorry, this story would probably have been a lot better if I remembered what it was! I think it was biking to work in the cold? Even though I do it quite regularly, I still have to amp myself up for it).
I learned of this technique from Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning*, which he calls the idea of paradoxical intention, based on the twofold fact that:
fear brings about that which one is afraid of, and that hyper-intention makes impossible what one wishes. In this approach the phobic patient is invited to intend, even if only for a moment, precisely that which he fears.
The example he gives is a man who sweats too much. His fear of sweating and his desire to sweat less actually makes him sweat even more. But if he visualizes sweating up a storm, he paradoxically sweats less. When he imagines what he wants to happen, the stress paradoxically causes what he most fears. Only by accepting the worst case scenario can he make a better result for himself.
On the other hand, I went to a holiday party and only talked to a few people. If I had just visualized everyone rejecting and mocking me as the worst thing that could happen, I probably would have gone out of my shell a bit more.
What do you think? Do you want to try this paradoxical intention?
*A similar technique is in The Tools, but this one stuck with me, probably because I’ve heard it at least twice now and am more receptive to the technique.