As a licensed social worker in clinical practice I’m familiar with the term “anticipatory grief.” As a son who was his father’s caregiver over the past three years, including two years of hospice care, I can appreciate this on a very personal level. Week after week of wondering when my father was going to make his transition took its toll on me physically and emotionally.
Yet none of my worry, concern and anticipation of his passing helped me one bit in dealing with the call that confirmed his death. Just because worry is considered to be socially acceptable or even expected in some circles doesn’t mean it has to be so. Worry doesn’t do anyone much good; it only exacerbates the problem. From a metaphysical standpoint this makes perfect sense: What we focus on increases. Fretting produces more reasons about which to worry. We start “what if-ing” and then doubt, sleepless nights and anxiety descend upon us with all the subtlety of an avalanche.
I recently encountered someone who is planning for trouble for which the person has no basis to expect, other than their own fear. Reports, charts and explanations are all in place not if,but when, “someone” asks them for an accounting. In realizing the similarity of this to anticipatory grief I am calling it “anticipatory conflict.” I’ve no idea whether I’ve coined a new term or not, but I believe the situation bears exploration.
Being prepared for every eventuality can make us appear efficient, professional and wise stewards of our charge. Conversely it could also indicate the presence of doubt in our own abilities, mistrust that God is ever-available, or doubt in the abundance of the universe which is ours to accept. It might also indicate our own underlying suspicion or prejudice of a person whom we feel responsible to supervise.
How better it would be if, instead of planning for disaster, we could be so assured of ourselves and others that we are at peace with our decisions. Then, if the situation does at some point comes up that we must explain our actions or the activities of others to this “expected inquisitor” we can rest in assurance that we do not have to immediately respond. Anyone in authority knows that we have the option with any query to take time to examine the facts. Ask yourself this week, For what anticipated conflict am I preparing…and why?