"Stories" from the Collective (YOU)

Found the Upside of a Down Time

by Dr Rob Pennington
(Houston, Texas, United States)

Dr Rob Pennington

Dr Rob Pennington

In the book, Find The Upside of the Down Times, I write about a time when I had a US$35,000 hospital bill with no insurance and I couldn't imagine how I would ever be able to pay it. This occurred right after I had been shot in the chest, so I was convalescing at home, not able to work. I'm self-employed, so if I'm not working I don't generate income. I envisioned a future of going deeper in debt and never being able to get out. I couldn't stop worrying. Does this sound familiar?

Some friends tried to reassure me by saying, "Don't worry, everything will work out. Just think positively!" Yeah, right. That is a lot easier said than done, and it's the last thing I wanted to hear. What I eventually learned is that positive thinking is only half the truth. Worry is a natural process of the mind. I needed to learn how to use my worry to get me where I wanted to go, in this case with all my bills paid.

Worry is like a signpost pointing in a direction you don't want to go. If you were driving down the road and saw a sign that said, "Highway ends 100 yards," would you keep driving forward? Of course you wouldn't. But with worry we tend to keep following the negative thought, even if it is about something that is not literally happening. The resulting negative behaviors sometimes even lead to a self-fulfilling prophecy.

I was worrying that my bills would never be paid. That was a direction I didn't want to go. But the thought caused me to sit around feeling depressed, which didn't help me solve the problem! I had to learn to recognize the difference between what was real in my worry and what was fantasy. Then I had to turn the negative fantasy into a more proactive 'Positive Opposite Possibility.' It's called a goal.

Actually, a goal is also a fantasy, but it is a positive one. So I told myself, "I know this bill will be paid, I just don't know how it will happen." By holding this thought in mind something occurred to me, "I don't have to pay this bill, it just has to be paid!" Isn't that true? The hospital doesn't care how it gets paid. I didn't know how that would happen, but it helped me feel less stressed about the situation. This new, more positive way of thinking, led me to cross paths with a person who told me about the Crime Victim's Compensation program, which eventually paid all the expenses related to the shooting.

Think about it this way: it was possible to have the bill paid whether I believed it or not. As long as I worried about not paying it, my thoughts made me feel terrible and led to behaviors that did not solve the problem. When I started to hold a positive possibility in my mind, even without knowing how to get there, my behaviors led me in a direction that solved the problem.

From this experience I learned that the answers to our problems are out there somewhere. We can use our worries to help us find those answers, even if we don't know how. Here are some links to free handouts and audio downloads that can help you learn how to do this with your own worries.

Dr Rob Pennington
Find The Upside of the Down Times

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