You screwed up. For now, nobody knows but you. Should you fess up, own up to your mistake, and take your licks, or keep quiet and suffer in agony? What you’re feeling is dread, an anticipatory emotion – and, as anyone who has ever waited for a balloon bouncing on grass to pop knows all too well, the anticipation of a negative event is often worse than the event itself. “Negative anticipation can be crippling. It can take over your whole life,” says Mark Connelly, a Cape Town-based psychologist. The thing is, the moment you come clean you trade in your dread for “outcome emotions” like shame and remorse. These are pretty awful, too, but they fade. That’s why Connelly recommends the Band-Aid approach. Imagine how much better you feel when you stop hesitating and just rip that sucker off. “Chances are good the consequences won’t be as bad as you feared they would be,” says Connelly. Even if things do get rough for a while, no matter how bad the blow is, we tend to recover our equilibrium in due time, according to Harvard psychologist Dr Daniel Gilbert, author of Stumbling on Happiness (R144 Loot.co.za). Connelly agrees: “We all make mistakes. The thing we sometimes forget is that we have the ability to recover and learn from them.”
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