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What’s in the brown envelope?

It’s exam results day soon, and I’m dreading it. What if my parents and teachers are disappointed in me?

It hasn’t happened yet, says our elder. Replace the negative fantasy with a positive one.

Dear EWC

I’m writing because I’m feeling very nervous and not confident at all in what might occur in the next few days. I’m from the UK and at the age of 16 you have to do a set of exams called GCSEs. Due to Covid-19 all exams had to be cancelled so we basically have no idea how the hell we are going to be marked and graded.

Ever since I was 11 years old fresh into secondary school it was drilled into my head how important these exams were. And how they would dictate my future. Thursday 20th of August 2020 is results day. The horrible day where after months of waiting and panicking we receive what could show an excellent set of marks. Or a complete failure. (To my parents there is no in between). I understand that I’m probably not going to get the marks my parents want. I know my abilities and to me they are a mere average. I guess I’m just scared of opening that brown envelope and being upset with what’s on it. I don’t want to disappoint anyone. Not my parents or my teachers. I wouldn’t know how to deal with being surrounded with happy faces and then there’s me holding in tears (I am a very emotional person. It’s my fatal flaw)

Grandpa-Matt replies

Suppose I told you that I might lend you money someday, would you start paying me interest today on the loan that I haven’t made you yet? Your answer would be, “Absolutely not!” However, worrying about times where something might negatively impact you, is like paying interest on a debt that you might never owe.

That is what you are doing when you are entertaining the fear that you are not going to get the marks that your parents want for you. Samuel Clements, who wrote under the pen name of Mark Twain, explained it best. “I’ve been through some terrible stuff in my life, some of which actually happened.” What he was saying is that the rest of it never happened. The fear was for nothing.

All human beings shift their focus back and forth between three things. The past, the present, and a fantasy! What we call the future in our minds doesn’t exist! I think we have a Past, Present, and Fantasy. That is all there is. When we think of anything following right at this moment, we are engaged in creating something we are making up in our minds.

When you are thinking of disappointing your parents or teachers by not achieving the goals desired, you are using your imagination to create a negative fantasy. At those moments, your mind is focused on fear. It is a funny thing about fear. It is never about the present. It is always about some thoughts about the possibility of some negative future fantasy. I call it a fantasy because it hasn’t yet happened

The emotional fear triggers the idea that you are then responsible for their reactions. Nothing could be further from the truth. You are never responsible for the emotions of another person! Similar to bad breath, you cannot give it to anyone else as we all are responsible for what goes on inside ourselves.

While I am not a therapist, I think that emotions are only messengers from our unconscious, letting us know what is going on beneath the surface as a response to events that show up in our lives. We are then triggered to take some action following our understanding based on our history, experience, and sense of what is appropriate.

When you say you are a (flawed) very emotional person, it is a misinterpretation of reality. Every action we take is a result of an emotion or a mood state. Whatever we do, laugh or cry (and everything in between), follows some emotional trigger. You are no more emotional than the rest of us. How you act it out is the only difference. The bottom line is that you are 100 percent in charge of your attitude. Choosing to act anywhere from a dramatic to a stoic response is where you exercise control.

Whenever you experience fear taking over, remind yourself to stay fully present in the moment. Remember, fear is only present when you go away from right now to an imagined negative fantasy. That brown envelope hasn’t arrived yet.

Since the future is unknown, we are free to blaze any path that we can make up. Those who say, I can handle whatever happens, is creating a positive fantasy based on their attitude. Whatever point of view you take will make it real. I hope this is helpful to allow you to live more in the moment. Just play the hand that you are dealt with, and you will be OK.

Letter #: 462229
Category: School

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