Waiting for News Is Worse Than Hearing Bad News

a dead/dying red rose sitting on the knee of someone's jeans
Image by BelindaChurchpix / CC BY

I’ve always hated waiting for news. Especially when things are up in the air, and it could honestly go one way or the other.

I honestly preferring hearing the bad news to the waiting. Because at least when I’ve heard the bad news, then I know. And I can start processing it. Start coping. Start dealing.

I can begin the process of getting over what has happened. And figuring out what to do next.

No, waiting is a lot worse. Especially in situations where people have told you just enough to make you worry. But not enough to really explain anything. And no one is getting back to you.

Rationally, I know why this is. It’s due to something called the Zeigarnik effect. What is the Zeigarnik effect? Simply stated, it’s our tendency to ruminate on and better remember tasks that are unfinished.

So while something is up in the air, it’s easier for it to be top of mind, even if we have a million other things we should be directing our energies to. Even if worrying and thinking about the news we’re waiting to get doesn’t do us one lick of good, we’ll still find it naturally preoccupying a lion’s share of our thoughts. Popping into our conscious mind unbidden.

I’ve figured out a lot over the years, but this is something I still struggle with. True, I do my best to distract myself when I’m waiting on potentially difficult news. I try to find ways to lose that preoccupation, even momentarily.

But do I do it as well as I’d like? No.

Instead, I muddle on, part of me bracing myself for the worst, even though the rest of me knows that it doesn’t help to dread the punch. It doesn’t make it hurt any less if and when it comes.

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Books by Page Turner:

Dealing with Difficult Metamours

A Geek’s Guide to Unicorn Ranching

Poly Land: My Brutally Honest Adventures in Polyamory 

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