Our brain has a superpower that allows us to think about possible future outcomes. We are incredible at using this power against ourselves!
Will kill you faster than any disaster ever will.
Any person who would have had the misfortune of waiting outside the Operation Theatre for the doctor would tell you how harrowing anticipation can be.
Irrespective of what the actual news is, your anticipating mind will allow you to concoct far stranger and scarier things than the truth.
The same would be true for a judge's decision, an exam result, and any other situations involving uncertainty.
Even if it is the worst-case outcome; the patient is dead, what then? Once you have heard, you will start planning the next steps. Life does not stop. In fact, it provides you closure and calls on you to move forward.
Anticipating demise is far more excruciating than actually dealing with it. The anticipation can go on forever (at least it can seem that way). Dealing with it always has a finite timeline.
The Cold War was essentially an exercise in anticipation. The Russians and the Americans expected a nuclear bomb to drop at any moment. They kept preparing for something that never came to pass. How much time was lost preparing for it?
Our affinity for bad news
Think of Japan. They had no clue the nuclear bomb even existed. On the 6th of August 1945, a city was wiped out. Hiroshima was blown asunder.
If someone had written an article on the 6th of September 1945 that this country would register a 1000-fold growth in GDP over the next 50 years, not a soul would have believed it. The country went from a $5 Billion GDP to $5.5 Trillion by 1995.
Source: World Bank
If instead someone had written how it would be impossible for Japan to rise again and its future was bleak, crowds would have lapped it up.
We have a pre-disposition towards bad news. We love to hear it. In fact, we actively seek it out. No wonder our news organisations offer us such drivel. Doom and gloom sell.
When anticipating, we sell ourselves our own versions of doom and gloom. Our brain very helpfully produces a steady stream of such prognoses.
Cross the bridge when you arrive there
Understandably, it would be rather difficult to stand waiting outside an OT and not care about what the outcome might be. But at the same time, torturing yourself and others over an outcome that may never come to pass is also not the best use of time.
Be cognizant. Know what can happen. But don’t think about it. Don’t obsess over it. You should only worry about it when it comes to passing. Worrying about it in advance, especially if you have no control over it, is completely futile.
Keep anticipation at bay as long as possible. It is most often the best way to deal with anything at that moment in time.