“When you’re catastrophizing, you magnify the importance of something that’s happening or something that didn’t go the way you wanted it to. It’s as if you’re looking at the experience through binoculars, which blows it all out of proportion.” ~ Toni Bernhard J.D.
The phone rings, it’s your husband’s ring tone. He never calls during the day. And the first things that pop into your head are all bad – he’s been in an accident, he’s at the hospital, he’s had a heart attack. You have jumped to all sort of negative conclusions before you even answered the phone. Then you answer it and he’s actually calling for something good, he wants to take you out for dinner. This is what happens to many of us, we catastrophize. We take a current situation, the phone is ringing, and we give it a truly negative spin.
Many years ago, a friend at work called me out on the fact that I was catastrophizing about some situation at work. I was totally unaware that I was doing that with so many things in my life. It was a terrible way to approach the world; my ego was trying to protect me so that when bad things didn’t happen, I was relieved, but it was not a good way to live. I was seeing the glass as half empty.
Brene Brown tells us, “the problem is, worrying about things that haven't happened doesn't protect us from pain. Ask anyone who has experienced a tragedy; they'll tell you there is no way to prepare.” We must be mindful that we are magnifying the situation out of proportion and imaging that a catastrophe is upon us.
Mindfulness is the key, now when I notice that I am catastrophizing, I stop and evaluate what is truly happening in this moment, not what might happen, but what is really happening. I stop the process and don’t jump to any conclusions. As in the case above, I answer the phone. If something “bad” did happen, I will deal with it then, but I will stop putting negative thoughts in my head, because as we all know “thoughts become things.” I live in the present moment.
Do you ever Catastrophize? If yes, what steps can you take stop jumping to conclusions and lessen the worry in your life?
Peggy Steffens is an artist and Chopra Certified Meditation Instructor
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