Assumption of Best Reaction: Part 1

Picturing another person responding in the best (or worst) way possible


I spent a good chunk of my morning hike replaying a conversation that had yet to happen. Erin getting pissed that I didn’t tell her where I’d gone and when I’d be back. I replayed this conversation so many times over in my head that I lost count at 8.

Then I asked myself, “Why? Why was I doing this? Why was I choosing this response for her out of the full range of possible responses she could choose?”

So I pressed “pause”. I stopped the replay loop in my head.

Rather than continually playing it over, I decided to fully face the worst case. Rather than a cursory brush with the expected vitriol, I decided to completely embrace what it might feel like. I pictured myself arriving home to see her waiting, just seething. Then, chewing me out, saying, “How could you takeoff for 3 hours without any heads up of where you’ve gone? You didn’t leave a note. You didn’t bring your phone. You’re so selfish. It’s always about you. Do you even care about me at all?” It hurt to sit in this place. It really hurt. And I felt it all.

But then I reminded myself, “I am Whole regardless.” I can apologize for my lack of communication, which I would have done had I known I’d takeoff for 3 hours, rather than the 15-minute walk I’d originally planned. I trusted that I’m not a bad person, that I do care about Erin, that I merely kept following my True Self as I wandered into the wilderness. I embraced these reminders. As I did, I was able to return to a place of Wholeness. Then, I felt peace.

So this was the imagined worst case. And even after feeling it, I was still able to return to a place of peace.

To clarify, this worst case had only happened in my head. Erin had not said any of these things. In fact, once I realized the dialogue I was assigning to her in my own head, it actually felt a bit unfair - unfair to her. She had never said these things to me before, so it was unfair to put these words in her mouth. The words I’d assigned to her were from me. It was me, talking to myself, using her voice, in my own mind. It wasn’t her original content. It was my voice, masquerading as hers.

So with this realization, I decided to try an alternative tactic. I tried to imagine what her “best case” response might be.

I walk through the door. She’s there smiling. Happy that I’m home safe. Excited to see me. Curious to hear about the hike, while just showering me in attention & love. She completely understands why I didn’t leave a note. She simply trusted that I would have returned when I was ready.

There’s one option.

Here’s another…

I walk through the door. She’s not there. She accepted that I took off on my morning activity. She chose to take off on hers - a cycle wherever her heart desired. She’s excited about an afternoon rendezvous when we’re both back. There’s full acceptance of the present situation and excitement for what’s to come.

Now, back to the trail, I’m feeling what it feels like to be welcomed home in one of these new “best case” scenarios. And let me tell you, it feels good. I feel supported. I feel loved. She extends me grace. She works to understand. It feels really good.

Again, to clarify, this is all in my head. The reality when I walk through the door might not align with the best case scenario, nor the worst case scenario. In fact, it probably won’t. But having gone through the exercise of feeling both, I feel ready to accept whatever comes my way. I’m reminded that “I am Whole regardless.” I’m starting from a place of feeling loved and supported and understood. So when I walk through the door, I’m approaching whatever happens with an accepting, rather than a defensive, heart.

The reality that I was met with was different than everything I’d imagined. She had in fact taken off on her morning cycle. But she left a loving note behind that read:
“I like you and your cute butt. I hope you have the most soul-reviving morning.”

All that suffering. All that worry. For nothing. A complete waste of energy.
In my head, I had assigned her judgment and fear.
In reality, she chose understanding and love.

So why am I tempted to assume the worst case reaction? What’s to be gained by this?

I guess it could be seen as a defense mechanism, so that I’m not taken by surprise if the worst comes to pass. But when I do this, it almost becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. If I’m bracing for this worst case, then what kind of mental state am I arriving home with? Am I showing up from a place of Wholeness, love, and understanding? Or am I arriving home full of fear and self-protectiveness?

Then, how does my initial reaction influence hers?

If I’m walking in the door feeling small and afraid, preparing to defend myself, then I’ll come in shields up, ready to launch a counterstrike. How might she react if that’s my opening approach? “Understanding and love” suddenly feels less likely.

Ultimately, her reaction is her choice. If she chooses the worst case reaction, then I’ll still have to suffer that scenario anyway. So, why choose to suffer it in advance?

I’m reminded of some quotes from the Tao of Seneca, “Letter 13: On Groundless Fears”:
“We suffer more in imagination than in reality…
Do not be unhappy before the crisis comes... the dangers may never come; they certainly haven’t come yet…
Some things torment us more than they ought; some torment us before they ought; and some torment us when they ought not to torment us at all. We are in the habit of exaggerating, or imagining, or anticipating sorrow.”

Assumption of best reaction is a choice to leave my defenses behind, to defer my sorrow, to delay my worry, to the only time I ought to ever face it… in reality.

When the time comes, it’ll be her choice of how to react. And here’s the beauty in that… this time it’ll be for real.

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