Rehearsing conversations in your head. Helpful or Hurtful?


He’ll sit on the couch and then ask me how my day was

I’ll bring up how I met Megan for lunch.

He’ll ask how that went.

Then I’ll tell him about the good taco I had (he loves tacos)

Then I’ll casually mention how her boyfriend is planning to open a second store. Then he will see how he needs to get off his butt …

We all do it. You want to address a big issues with your partner, finally stand up to your mother, or ask your cube mate to turn down his music. You might take days or months practicing in your head exactly what you will say, how you will say, maybe what you will wear, or how you will position yourself physically for maximum effect.

You plot out how you want to come off – calm, righteous, in control, or maybe firm yet loving. You may want to leave them with a sense of your unwavering power or let them see how gracious and forgiving you can be.

Well, in my experience, things never go the 1,000 ways you planned them to.

Either that person doesn’t show up that day, you chicken out, or they say something like “sure, no problem,” completely taking away your chance at delivering your three page detailed outline of reasons why they should stop doing what they are doing.

Usually it goes somewhere in the middle. You don’t get any extreme reaction from the person, and you don’t come to any concrete conclusion. It’s neither a yes nor a complete no.

Ugh life….

So is all that mental rehearsing helping or hurting?

You may think you are better than the person you know how just flies off the handle or wears their emotions on their sleeves. But you may fall into the equally harmful, opposite end of the spectrum. 

When you constantly rehearse conversations in your head you are stuck in anxiety and fear. Does your body feel relaxed and good as you play out these situations? Probably not. You likely are clinching your jaw, furrowing your brow (wrinkles ladies!), turning red, or barely breathing. I’ve even managed to make myself cry just thinking about what might happen. I've lost full nights of sleep over fake, future conversations. How could this possibly be helping me or the situation?

Do you realize you don't rehearse positive or happy conversations? You never stay up late agonizing over how to tell your friends you found a new job or that you found a $20 bill in your winter purse. (Unless you are fearful of how your jealous friend will react... )

I’ve finally realized it’s almost all about control.

You are trying to control an imaginary future situation. You want to make sure you think of every possible scenario, outcome, comeback, and possible rejection.

What if you just took a few minutes to think of what you might want to say or how you want to say it and leave it at that? Maybe jot a few notes down and be done with it in under 10 minutes.

The next problem is this mental rehearsing is also very addictive.

Sometimes we just want to feel like the victim, hero, victor, dominatrix etc. (This is all subconscious of course.) There’s no better way to make sure you feel that then creating the perfect scenario in your own head.

But what if you don’t prepare yourself for every possible outcome. Isn’t being prepared a good thing?

Well, like you’ve probably noticed, rarely do things go as planned. So obviously we aren’t so good at predicting the future.

But maybe there was a time when you were blindsided by a strong reaction to a conversation. Maybe if you keep rehearsing a million scenarios then you won’t ever be blinded sided again. Sorry, you aren’t a psychic and you will be blind-sided again. I promise. You can only rely on yourself and your abilities to bounce back from a negative situation (read Nathaniel Brendans book on self –esteem if you need help with this).

Don’t great athletes and mega achievers visual outcomes as part of their training?

They do, but they visual POSITIVE outcomes. What if you visualized talking to the guy you are dating about where things are going and visualized you both feeling at peace at the end of the talk. Isn’t that the best possible outcome? Not getting your way for the sake of getting your way or being right?


So how can I stop these rehearsals?

I sometimes have a hard time stopping once I get started. Sometimes I’ll be doing something completely unrelated, and the conversation starts up again in my mind.

First, remember just because you think it, doesn’t mean it means anything or that you need to act on it.

Second, try this simple breathing exercise/meditation I got from Gabrielle Bernstein.

  1. Breathe in and think “I release my fear that (they won’t listen, I won’t be understood, they will hate me, etc)."
  2. Then breathe out and think “I surrender.” You can surrender the situation to God, the universe, or whoever does it for you.

Repeat till you’ve gone through all your fears about the conversation and feel better. Easy Peasy. 



Gabrielle Bernstein

Nathaniel Brendan