Preventative Mental Medicine

woman wearing knit hat and swing her arms

While we are busy unlearning the worry syndrome, there is another syndrome we want to unlearn as well – the “if only” syndrome. Unfortunately, there is no pill we can take, and no inoculation to prevent it. We actively need to unlearn it. But, once we understand what it is, we can take steps to avoid contracting it in the first place. Call it preventative mental medicine.

You might know someone with the “if only” syndrome. Maybe you have a touch of it yourself. People with this syndrome tend to blame others for their disappointments and failures. They blame their families (“Nobody could succeed with the parents I have”); their friends (“If only my so-called friends would come through for me, once in a while”); their circumstances (“It’s obvious that the deck is stacked against me”). Their complaints frequently start with the words “if only.” “If only I had more money.” “If only I had paid more attention in school.” “If only I was better looking, a different gender, a different age,” blah, blah, blah and so on.

These folks stumble through life feeling anxious or depressed, dreaming of unlikely events that will transform them – magically – through little or no effort of their own. And because at their very core they envy the success of others, it’s hard for them to feel any genuine pleasure in anyone else’s successes.

To avoid coming down with the “if only” syndrome, we want to take responsibility for our own life, once and for all. Give up the blame game and learn to hope. Give up faultfinding and learn to set achievable goals. Give up thinking about what you would do “if only” you could win the lottery and figure out what you can do with the 50 dollars you have, the skills and talents you possess, and the relationships that enrich your life, instead.

When we take responsibility for our lives, it becomes much easier to learn from the mistakes we inevitably make, and we get the added benefit of taking control of our successes.