Dress Rehearsing Tragedy

Something I have been experiencing a lot lately is this thing called dress rehearsing tragedy. Brene Brown defines it this way: “imagining something bad happening when in reality nothing is wrong.” 

Dress rehearsing tragedy is so sneaky. It can show up as anxiety or dread, but before you know it turns into a full blown way of thinking or a pattern. 

I realized soon after I learned what this term was that it had snuck into my marriage and I had to do something about it. I found myself asking, “am I really trying to avoid conflict or am I trying to make our relationship perfect”? Doing this so I can avoid the chance of being left on a sour note if something bad happened to us. 

Am I so worried about impending doom and tragedy that I’m afraid to live in the moment, can I be real and okay with slow progress? 

Do I want all our moments to be happy or am I afraid we won’t have many happy moments if something bad happens?


This kind of thinking puts a lot of pressure on relationships and people. Despite the age old “you only live once, be happy” mantra, it doesn’t actually bring happiness to you or your partner. I’m learning that I cannot be afraid to make mistakes or be in a “hard” place for a while. Being authentic and true is more important than feigning happiness or lightness when all you can do is dread loss or dress rehearse tragedy. I am dealing with my fears. I have the choice to decide every day that I am going to live 100% in the moment, even if it is painful. I am not going to worry about what could happen.

Easier said than done, this change in perspective has brought so much to the relationship. It is worthy of mention, which is why I am writing about it. Let me be clear, it is not about doing it perfectly, it is about doing it right. Right by you and right by your partner. Living like today may be your last day can be helpful when you are in a rut or living on autopilot, but for everyday living this is not doing you any favours. 

Instead of living like your partner might be taken away from you, live like you have been given the greatest gift of all. Live with joy, gratefulness, softness, forgiveness, vulnerability, humour, passion, spontaneity, and peace. At the end of the day, we only have each moment as it comes. Dreading the loss of a moment, or one hundred moments, is only going to steal your joy and prevent you from living FULLY. 

Tammy Zdunich