Missing Anxiety by a Millimeter or Infinity


You experience anxiety. You’re not alone. Being anxious is a common experience. Scenario: You are a passenger in a car, and another car comes within one millimeter of hitting you. Close call, but, fortunately, no accident. Yet, your heart rate increases, you breathe differently after the incident than you did before it, and you voice your concern to the driver, “He almost hit us! He almost hit us! Oh!”

The driver, oblivious to the feeling of panic that has rushed through you, says, “Relax. Nothing happened.”

“Not good enough,” you think on some underlying level of self-communication. “We were almost in an accident,” you say to the driver. “Pay attention to your driving.”

Those words start the argument.

“I was paying attention. That guy almost hit us.” Et, as they say, cetera: The conversation continues, exacerbating your feeling of anxiety and throwing bad feelings toward the driver into the mix. The driver becomes defensive.

But no accident occurred. That’s the reality. If the car missed you by a millimeter, it was the same as if the car missed you by infinity. The accident did not happen. Your car and the other car occupied two different places at the moment of the near miss. You were not in the place of an accident. There was no difference between one millimeter and infinity when nothing occurred. Missing the collision meant missing the collision. The distance was irrelevant. You were safe.

Think of what Mark Twain said. “I am an old man and have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened.” Will you spend your life being anxious over “many troubles” that “never happened”?