Are You a Catastrophizer?

This is what catastrophizing looks like

This is what catastrophizing looks like

I heard this word for the first time the other day and was intrigued. A catastrophizer is somebody who assumes, at the first sign of trouble, that disaster is going to ensue.

So if, for example, if you don’t know the answer to an exam question, an optimist will carry on assuming it’s a blip, a pessimist will think it’s the first of many questions they will be unable to answer, and a person inclined to catastrophize will immediately imagine failing the exam, then go on to assume a future of endless unemployment because they obviously aren’t even going to be able to get their educational credentials.

Clearly this isn’t a good place to be.

In reading about it, I had one of those horrible moments when you’re scoffing at something and you suddenly realize there are times when you actually do it yourself. Ooops. This is where the boogeyman lives, and catastrophizing is a knee-jerk reaction to his appearance.

So I figured I better read enough to find the antidote. Here it is:

1. Recognize that you’re doing it. Yay, I get to tick that one off.

2. Journal your catastrophizing moments for a week: what was the situation, what set you off, what were your thoughts around it. You should see a pattern emerge around specific situations.

3. This is the hard bit. When those situations pop up again and you hear your tried and true response (armageddon!) popping up, you have to give yourself a rational alternative scenario. In essence, you’re presenting contrary evidence to the judge and jury in your head.

Obviously if you’ve been going down the armageddon road for a long time on something, it’s going to take awhile to get out of the habit. I’m going to give it a try, though. It could be well worth it.

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