Catastrophizing

woman in black long sleeve dress screaming
Photo by Rene Asmussen on Pexels.com

Why do we often plot out the worst case scenario in our minds?

Something that hasn’t happened yet and we are making up stories about how awful it could be.

I caught this in action a few days ago reading a post in a private Facebook group. It went something along the lines of ,”My husband threatened divorce, I’m a stay at home mom who’s never worked outside the home, and I have no idea what to do. How will I survive? Has anyone been through this and have advice?”

There was a little more to it than that, but you get the idea.

My heart went out to her. I wanted to reach out and tell her that was clearly catastrophizing, but the post was anonymous.

I can see these things so clearly now, I want to show others how to free themselves from it.

Now, I don’t know her full story and it couldn’t possibly be conveyed that well in a few sentences, but it was obvious to me that she was already living in her worst case scenario. Reaching out and seeking input from virtual strangers on what she should do with a major life change…that hasn’t happened yet.

Who knows if it will?

Sometimes we say things in anger in the heat of the moment that we don’t really mean.

Sometimes we change our minds later even if we really did mean it in the moment.

Humans are complex and one thing is certain, we do still hold fiercely to our tribe mentality, seeking comfort and reassurance even if it’s from a group of strangers.

Nothing wrong with that, of course. Nothing wrong with any of this. I just find it so interesting that this lovely person was living in so much fear of an unknown future.

Of course, uncertainty and the unknown seem to be the worst of all, don’t they?

When we aren’t certain what will happen, that leaves the door open for all kinds of drama and worst case scenarios. We can then seek advice and compare to our heart’s desire, but in reality, what worked for someone else may not necessarily work for you. There are simply too many variables.

Our minds go straight to figure it out mode – if we simply know what to do, we can be prepared and maybe everything will okay.

We want to hope for the best and plan for the worst.

What we should really be doing is practicing how to feel.

I’ve said it before, the worst that can happen is a negative emotion.

But we don’t want to feel those feelings, so we’ll do whatever we can to avoid them. Redirect focus to anything else. If we busy our brains trying to find a solution to a problem that we don’t even have yet, we won’t have sit with the emotion of fear.

That would be the worst of all.

The idea of being isolated for a period of time during a global pandemic seems scary. The thought that we may not have everything we need with no way to obtain supplies for some of us leads to panic.

So what do we do? Busy our brains with “what to do to be prepared” for the worst case scenario. Buy all the hand sanitizer and face masks we can find. Hoard food. Just in case.

In reality, it isn’t about illness or isolation. It’s the feelings that come with our thoughts about it. The fear. The loneliness. The darkness.

Yet how beneficial is it to catastophize an uncertain future? No, there’s nothing wrong with having a plan in place, I just don’t see value in obsessing.

The only thing you’re accomplishing in doing this is avoiding the inevitable emotions that are coming anyway. Learn to be present with them and you’ll learn that there’s no catastrophe you can’t handle.


Would you like to be coached on this or another area of your life? Book a free consultation with me here.

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