Beware the Bubble: Must All Good Things Come to an End?

Father and mother with their daughter at the beach’Tis the season for ghosts and goblins and creepy crawlies real and imagined … so I want to talk about one of the human mind’s scariest inventions, one nearly all of us believe in from time to time.

The bubble.

As in, “I’m just waiting for this bubble to burst.”

What, exactly, is the bubble? For many, it represents a happy time in life, a time when things are going well or some relief from a problem has been realized, a too-good-to-be-true moment or relationship. But it comes with a nagging feeling, a sense that it will all come crashing down at some point. People are uneasily content inside their bubbles; believing it could burst at any moment creates anxiety, fear, and worry. They fret themselves into pretzels and struggle to appreciate good fortune because they are so preoccupied with the possibility it will end.

I’ve seen people finally meet the partners of their dreams, only to walk around terrified that their new love is too perfect, the relationship too easy. They find themselves “waiting for the other shoe to drop.” I’ve seen mothers with healthy, beautiful families who, on the one hand, talk about how much they love motherhood and how thankful they are but, on the other, are so terrified their kids will get sick or injured that they spend most of their time researching symptoms online and seeking reassurances from doctors’ offices.

At first glance, these two examples might seem to have nothing in common—a type of self-esteem issue and a form of hypochondria—but both are signs that a scary-feeling bubble of sorts has taken over and prevented each person from fully enjoying what they have.

There are many interesting things to discover about each person’s unique bubble. For someone in a new relationship, we can talk about the joys of the “honeymoon” phase and how important it is for lasting connection. We can talk about the person’s belief that he or she is not worthy of a good relationship. For the mom with an overly involved parenting style, we can connect to her sense of responsibility and her deep love and desire to protect her children. We can gently poke at the bubble and remind these folks that, like all creatures, they deserve good things in their lives and don’t have to “pay” for them with bad fortune later.

Indeed, bad fortune does come to some of us some of the time, but the bubble doesn’t prepare us. We might look back and say, “Oh, I knew my luck would run out” or “The relationship was bound to fail at some point,” but the bubble didn’t help matters. It’s imaginary. We invented it out of thin air.

More importantly, the bubble doesn’t protect us from anything. It just causes us stress. The bubble is our safeguard against all that we fear: as long as we put ourselves in this happy bubble over here, but feel impending doom (or at least some alternative, negative reality) over there, we can stay in a fantasy.

Yes, terrible things may happen from time to time, but this anxious mind-set—the bubble—does not keep terrible things at bay. Creating a doom-filled scenario for the future does not protect our happy state right now.

There is no bubble. All of these feelings and states and phases in our lives are just part of our lives.

We have grown accustomed to the idea that there is a “honeymoon” phase at the beginning of relationships and that it’s not a bubble that bursts. It is a stage that we can be grateful for, one that graduates to something else. Similarly, we should get used to the fact there will be times of health, connection, and success without expecting “payback” down the road. Just because something wonderful is happening in our lives doesn’t mean it must be followed by something terrible.

Yes, terrible things may happen from time to time, but this anxious mind-set—the bubble—does not keep terrible things at bay. Creating a doom-filled scenario for the future does not protect our happy state right now.

The best we can do when things are going well, when we have healthy children or a flourishing relationship, is to stay mindful of what we have and enjoy it. Spend more time flourishing, enjoying your good health, and cultivating happy things. This is the cornerstone of a solution-focused mind-set.

Here are some ways I help people in therapy through their bubble mind-sets:

  • Use anxiety as a reminder to feel gratitude. When you think, “Nobody’s gotten sick yet this winter, so a bad flu must be on its way,” use this as a reminder to feel grateful for the health your family has enjoyed so far, and to keep doing what’s working to keep you all healthy. Try hard to translate what’s working into actual behaviors.
  • When the bubble tells you that this can’t last, counter it. Identify the ways it’s trying to make you nervous, then challenge it by saying, “Nothing lasts forever, so I’m going to enjoy what I have right now. Being worried about when it will end isn’t going to help me cope in the future and will make it harder to enjoy this time.”
  • Spread your confidence and gratitude to others. When you hear someone expecting the good in their life to end, counter it. Point out that nobody deserves bad fortune, and encourage the person to enjoy what they are experiencing as long as they can.
  • Seek therapy and support when bad events do happen. Perhaps the worst thing about the bubble mind-set is it allows for bad fortune to feel like it makes sense. If we believe we are in a bubble that can be popped by bad luck, a wrong move, or negligence, it may always seem like we are doomed. Partnering with a counselor can help challenge this line of thinking and get to work on solving the actual problem: the bad event itself.

Remember, bubbles are every bit as imaginary as ghosts and goblins. Happy Halloween!

© Copyright 2015 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Lindsey Antin, MA, MFT, therapist in Berkeley, California

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

  • 7 comments
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  • Gretchen

    Gretchen

    October 30th, 2015 at 10:54 AM

    Unfortunately it has always been my experience that yes it is true that there are times when all good things are going to come to an end.
    But that does not have to mean that this is the end for you.
    There could be other and greater things waiting just around the corner but you have to keep both your eyes as well as your mind open to see what those things actually are.
    You cannot shut down just because this one thing is over.

  • Penelope

    Penelope

    October 30th, 2015 at 7:20 PM

    such is life you know?

  • randa

    randa

    October 31st, 2015 at 8:37 AM

    Be positive! If it is something that is worth holding onto and making last, then you will.

  • Hank

    Hank

    October 31st, 2015 at 2:15 PM

    So look at it this way
    If the good things are ending then that means that the bad things have to eventually come to an end too
    And that can be a positive way of looking at it

  • Mark

    Mark

    November 2nd, 2015 at 7:27 AM

    Yeah, I don’t look at t like a bubble either, because of you do then of course eventually that bursts. That is the way of the bubble is it not? But life is full of all sorts of journeys and phases and sometimes you just have to learn to roll with the punches.

  • Katrina D

    Katrina D

    November 3rd, 2015 at 11:36 AM

    We will all at some point lose something in our lives that is important to us, but you know, that’s the way life goes. There will be times when you win big and then there will be those times when you lose big. It’s just, you know, the circle of life I guess you could say. Now that doesn’t mean that something bad will happen, because when you look back in life there could have been things that happened that you didn’t understand the lesson behind at the time, but you look back on it now and understand that this was for the best. There is always a lesson to be learned from whatever happens, something to take away from it, the key is top be willing to open your eyes and see that lesson for what it is.

  • Donald

    Donald

    November 6th, 2015 at 6:38 AM

    Over the years I have learned that the more you expect things to come crashing down eventually, the more they will

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