The butterfly effect is the concept that small causes can have large effects. Initially, it was used with weather prediction but later the term became a metaphor used in and out of science.
In chaos theory the butterfly effect is the sensitive dependence on initial conditions in which a small change in one state of a deterministic nonlinear system can result in large differences in a later state. The name, coined by Edward Lorenz for the effect which had been known long before, is derived from the metaphorical example of the details of a hurricane (exact time of formation, exact path taken) being influenced by minor perturbations such as the flapping of the wings of a distant butterfly several weeks earlier.
Now, that’s the science bit out of the way. How does this relate to everyday life I hear you ask? Well, as an acquaintance of anxiety I can assure you that this description of cause and effect is just how each day feels in my head. A way of demonstrating this point has arisen this morning. Yesterday, my mum phoned me to talk to me about a meeting I wanted to go to. In the town where I live, a charity has set up an ‘Anxiety Cafe’ which meets up on the first and third Monday of each month and gives people like myself a chance to meet other, like minded individuals and just relax. There is no agenda, no group therapy, just people talking and enjoying making new friends. This coming Monday is the first one I have been able to go to and I am a little nervous. My mum said she can have my daughter for an hour or so as my wife is busy with the Brownie troop she helps to run. That was that. All sorted. Or so I thought.
The conversation then ran on to what we were doing at the weekend when my wife returns to work after 2 weeks annual leave. Mum suggested that her and my dad were going over to the mainland (the big island) for the day to have a drive around some of the picturesque little villages near the coast. It was hinted that me and my daughter could go too if we wanted.
And that’s when the butterfly began to flutter it’s wings.
This morning I have woken up a little more shaky than usual, a little more afraid than usual. I have now gone back to the part of my brain that over thinks things and puts barriers in my way. The last time I went on a ferry was over 4 months ago and although it was calm I was still hesitant. So far I have checked the weather forecast for the weekend, checked the ferry timetables, checked out roughly how long the drive will be on the other side of the ferry to get to the villages and that’s before I’ve even decided whether I’m going or not.
It would therefore be safe to assume that one simple question (the butterfly fluttering it’s wings) about planning a day out has resulted in me questioning every little detail about what could happen if I go (the hurricane) and how I can avoid it. I desperately want to go as the opportunity for a good photography session is of interest to me. Photography is my comfort zone and although I am by no means a professional I enjoy viewing things from a different perspective. If I don’t go I know I will only regret it afterwards but how do I convince myself beforehand that everything will be alright? I have made that same journey plenty of times before with no trouble so why should this time be any different?
The answer is……………………….