There’s something about the Human Mind that forces us to act irrationally and participate in thought patterns that serve no purpose.
Just the other day, I wrote about my bad habit of getting too caught up in nostalgia. Well, I was watching an episode of “How I Met Your Mother” and it brought me back to a topic I’d previously discussed with a friend of mine: What If?
‘What If? -ing’ is just a hypothetical version of nostalgia. You take a time or turning point in your life an attempt to extrapolate it out into an entirely alternate reality. It can be a fun little exercise or diversion sometimes, but most of the time it’s just an exercise in frustration.
I think it’s pretty obvious that as I said before, there’s no way to ever try to recreate those previous circumstances. There’s no way ever know what would have actually happened because so many different things can affect our personalities and experiences that there’s no way control the environment. Sometimes all that ‘What If? -ing’ just leaves a bad taste in your mouth.
It can be such a dangerous little rabbit hole to fall into. By engaging in the very exercise, you start with a morbid kind of curiosity, or worse a dissatisfaction at your current circumstances. That means that everything you think about will be colored with an idea that “everything would have been better with just this one little change.” You’re setting yourself up for more disappointment at your current situation and and extra helping of frustration at your inability to actually know if that is what would have happened.
Which brings me to the real thought that got me interested enough to post about this: Do you really want to know? That was the twist in the television episode I watched. You can ask ‘What If?’ as much as you want. Sometimes, there’s an actual answer to that question. Sometimes there’s a reason that you didn’t make a different choice. You might not want to know that reason.
That’s the problem with asking too many hypothetical questions and always examining every little detail of your life: sometimes you might not like the answer. I’m sure that there are times when we might need a jolt like this to make a proactive major change. There are more times when it might cause you to open a Pandora’s Box of problems that needn’t have ever been touched again.
This is the sort of thing that is hard to remember when you have an active imagination. ‘What If? -ing’ seems like it would all be in good fun. You have source material, personal experience, and lots of curiosity. “What could it hurt?” you think. It’s a hard activity to avoid.
Just something to consider the next time you catch yourself thinking ‘What If?’ You might just be in for more disappointment. More importantly, do you really want to know the answer and the reason?