Resource of the Month–February, 2014

Things May Go Terribly, Horribly Wrong: A Guide to Life Liberated from Anxiety by Kelly G. Wilson, PH.D and Troy Dufrene

 “In this very moment,

will you accept the sad and the sweet,

hold lightly stories about what’s possible,

and be the author of a life that has meaning and purpose for you,

turning in kindness back to that life when you find yourself moving away from it?”

If you are open to a fresh perspective on your anxiety, this book is for you. Wilson and Dufrene give people what they need to live a purposeful and meaningful life that places experiences like anxiety in a whole new context. They describe the problem of anxiety well here, “If you house burns down or you lose your life saving in a stock market crash, you’re likely to be pretty upset. But you could also be out of sorts if your house might burn down or your finances might go wrong. (p.28) Anxiety tricks us into thinking that we need to think through every possible scary thing that pops into our minds. Using the principles of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), Wilson and Dufrene challenge this assumption at its core.

What this book does is teach and offer an attitude towards anxiety and suffering that we heap on ourselves by our thought processes. Whatever you may dream up that may go wrong could actually happen, but the encouragement to hold the stories we tell ourselves lightly (see opening quote) opens up the challenge embedded in this book; to look at the way anxious thoughts impact us rather than always drilling in to the content of the thoughts. One key tool is staying in contact with the present moment; “….anxiety is out of place in the present moment. It depends on the past and the future for its existence. This understanding matters if you hope to let go of your struggle with anxiety” (p.54).

The authors offers exercises that they call games throughout the book, adding to the books casual and sometimes chummy tone. But the serious reader is wise to practice the games and see which ones are worth incorporating into their lives. An example that I tried today with a client helps the individual use their imagination to “see” their thoughts coming out of the mouth of someone or something other than himself. Imagining your dreaded anxious thought—my boss thinks I’m lame—coming out of the mouth of an armadillo sheds a new light on it and creates some distance between you and the thought. Don’t get me wrong, the book is not full of techniques that encourage a cavalier attitude towards life’s challenges. Rather, Wilson and Dufrene help the reader with the important process of discrimination between which thoughts are helpful and workable and which are not.

I recommend this book because so many people think that the key to ending their suffering with anxiety lies in answering the question their anxiety is asking. My anxiety about whether I’ll marry my boyfriend will be fixed by getting engaged. The problem with that assumption is that anxiety will always ask another question. But does his mother like me more than his ex-girlfriend? This book reframes the struggle and offers a life guided by values rather than anxiety. I cannot say how often I do this work with my clients and how firmly I believe that there is life-altering liberation in understanding this distinction.

To find the book, CLICK HERE

4 comments


  • Rob

    Thanks Janice, realizing that anxiety, “will always ask another question” is such a huge rcognition that eludes so many.

    February 20, 2014
  • Katy

    I love the quote about anxiety being out of place in the present moment. So very true! Do you think this book would offer insight and help with younger kids and anxiety?

    February 20, 2014
    • Janice

      Well, it would give perspective to the parents. But for really working with kids and parents, I recommend this book by Reid Wilson: Anxious Kids, Anxious Parents. Great, great tools for families in there. There is a companion book for the kids too. I’ll try to blog about it soon!

      February 20, 2014
  • KF

    Please do blog about the kids anxiety book! Sounds like something I might like to look at!

    February 20, 2014

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