He types everything we think, whether we actually say it or not, and it shows up on our inner computer screen.
Most of the time this Wizard is busy at work ... typing, getting input from both the outside and inner world, then typing some more, and on and on.
He's amazing! He almost never rests.
But every so often the Wizard types: What if...? ...
What if I get worse?
What if I lose my ability to _________?
What if I don't do well, or fail in that class or job or presentation?
What if these new people don't like me?
What if __________________ happens to me?
And then he does something very rare ... the wizard leans back in his chair and just sits there, reading and re-reading the question on the screen ... What if?… What if? ...
Now like many computers these days our inner computer is programmed so that if no new information is typed and comes up on the screen, after a few moments the screen will go blank, … and then a new message appears. That new message is exactly the same as the previous one except for one thing ... it is re-punctuated!
Now, in place of the question mark,
there is an exclamation mark!
And seeing this new message the Wizard reads:
And with that he leaps forward to the computer and begins typing more self-talk, not in response to the What-if question, but in reaction to the implied answer within the exclamation mark:
OH MY GOSH, IF MY SYMPTOMS GET WORSE THAT WOULD BE TERRIBLE! I'D BE A COMPLETE BURDEN ON OTHERS; I'D NEVER BE ABLE TO ENJOY ANY PART OF LIFE AGAIN; I'D BE TOTALLY DEPENDENT AND OTHER PEOPLE WOULD THINK I'M REPULSIVE AND AWFUL TO BE AROUND!
Or maybe the Wizard reads:
WHAT IF I DON'T DO WELL AT THIS!
And then he types:
IF I DON'T DO WELL EVERYBODY WILL THINK I'M STUPID! I'D FEEL SO AWFUL! I'D FEEL LIKE SUCH A DUMMY AND FOOL FOR TRYING AND IT WOULD SHOW I'M JUST A TOTAL FAILURE!
Notice that when the "What if" was followed by the Question Mark, the self-talk and feelings the Wizard had were uneasy and concerned; But when it changed to an Exclamation Mark, the self-talk became "Awfulized."
The way for us to get through these What-if questions with less stress is to say: "Hold it, Wizard. Undo those last couple of lines on your word processor.
and ANSWER IT."
"OK, What if my symptoms get worse? Well, if they get worse that would be real rough and scary, so I want to do everything I can now to reduce the chances of getting worse. Meanwhile, …
Or on the other theme: "What if I don't do well ? Well, …
Note that it is harder to get upset and anxious when we answer our own questions. And that's at least partly because our answers give us some perspective and feeling of control that we don't have when the What-ifs have exclamation marks after them.
And remember: You are the Wiz.
Easy does it, Wiz.
One last thought: Let's go back to a very common, very simple "What if" probably most of us have experienced: What if it rains on the parade?
When we didn't answer the question and let the exclamation mark appear we thought things like "Oh, that will be terrible! It would RUIN everything!!"
But the truth is, lots of our parades never got rained on and the rain didn't stay away because we worried so hard. It simply didn't rain. And then there were some times when it did rain on our parades, and what happened??? We coped! We paraded in the rain, or we went indoors, or we even cancelled the event, or we went to a bar and drank and laughed about the crazy day. But we coped, and we were (and are) OK.
Take good care, everyone!
p.s. Thanks to Jeff Bucchino, "The Wizard of Draws" for his drawing of the Wizard at the top of the page!