Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon in the US – next month is going to strap himself into a rather large steel tube with tens of thousands of tonnes of rocket-fuel beneath him and launch himself into space. Admittedly, this is not my ideal of a fun day-out; in fact, this would probably rank up there with bungee jumping from an aeroplane; but one can imagine that even if Jeff did get cold space feet, his ability to pull the plug might be greatly diminished by the social pressure that has been exerted around the venture; similar to being sponsored for the London marathon with zero-days training but a large amount of charity donations and tweets behind you – you pretty much have to do it!
Perhaps for Jeff though: it is the realisation of a life-long dream and the culmination of a series of choices that got him there. The point is: he still has a genuine choice whether to go ahead or not. In more down-to-earth circumstances in my therapy room, my clients often grapple with situations that in their minds don’t offer them similar choices: they are destined to only one outcome – one fate. Most of the time, in this scenario, my job is to challenge that type of ‘distortion’ in thinking and encourage and coax out of them a fresh perspective, using a few CBT techniques amongst others. For the client: there is a real power in coming to a different realisation that there are different choices and owning that process – as opposed to being told what to do or think.
Growing up, the notion of a having a ‘plan B’ was firmly instilled in me…and sometimes even a ‘plan C’; this has served me well into adulthood, perhaps building in some additional resilience when faced with difficult situations, and forcing myself to ask ‘how can I look at this differently?’. It is my observation that this approach can greatly reduce the type of zero-option thinking that can, at some point in our lives, land at our doorstep and reek havoc if unchecked. For many of us, this pandemic, across many of our life domains: whether it be work, school or family life has narrowed our choices, but it is how we view these (from a healthy perspective) and respond that will dictate whether we maintain a strong positive attitude and good mental health.