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We can use these four factors to help us reality-check a circumstance in our life and work. Especially when we have little or no information, and are consumed by speculation and fear.

The underlying concept of “reasonable” applies as a measure throughout. I use the legal definition of reasonable here: just, rational, appropriate, ordinary or usual in the circumstances.

Case 1: I think the bank is going to foreclose on my loan and force my business to shut down. I have had some letters from the bank that I dared not open. I have not spoken to anyone yet. We are about to start a significant project.

Case 2: I think my spouse is cheating on me. They say they love me and their actions are congruent with that. But I still feel that they are cheating on me. I dare not confront them about it. But it is tearing me up inside.

1. Is the situation reasonably possible?

Case 1: What is your history with this bank, servicing your loans, and generally with managing your finances? If you have a healthy record with them, the possibility of a sudden foreclosure without recourse would be lower. Are there possibilities of continuing the project even if the foreclosure were to occur?

Case 2: What has your relationship been like? Were their prior incidents where trust and commitment were eroded? What is the possibility that your perception is out of alignment with reality?

2. Is the situation reasonably likely?

Case 1: If a foreclosure were coming, what is the likelihood of it being catastrophic and beyond mitigation? Is it likely that the bank will offer you a stepwise plan to avoid a foreclosure?

Case 2: Has the work or social circumstances of your spouse changed? Do they have more opportunities to cheat on you? How likely are they to take these opportunities?

3. What is the reasonable magnitude of the situation, the causative factors, and the precipitated effects?

Case 1: When you take a whole-of-life perspective, how bad can a foreclosure really be? What are the genuinely constructive opportunities that can come from it? Would the bank really take everything you have? Are they even legally allowed to take everything you have?

Case 2: How significant is the cheating, if it were real? Is platonic socialising with an attractive other considered cheating?

4. Is the multitude of people/parties involved (either to perpetuate or temper the circumstance) reasonable?

Case 1: Why would the bank not give you plenty of warning and be open to discussing the situation with you? How many layers of decision makers would need to be involved for such a failure in communications? How would the law and other banking regulatory agencies view the bank’s actions?

Case 2: If your spouse were hiding their infidelity from you, who and how many others would need to be involved? What is the likelihood that all of these people are able to keep this secret perfectly?