Relatively Catastrophising

  • Something I haven’t spoken that often about in these pages but often find myself talking about with clients is the ability of those who think negatively to take events out of context and make them seem far worse than what they really are.  Nowhere is this more true than when regarding future events in the context of past experience and further asking “What if?”

    People will often regard their future goals through the filters of what has happened to them in the past.  If these past experiences were negative or caused the person to feel bad emotionally, then the sub-conscious, in it’s constant effort to protect us, will try to stop us doing that thing again.  It will often use fear as its tool of choice to achieve this with the result that people can become fearful of the silliest things.

    This fear will often be deemed inappropriate by the conscious, cognitive self thus adding a further frustration and even anger to the way a person is behaving.  Obviously, it will take a certain amount of compounding in order for a fear to become so deeply rooted so as to turn it into a phobia, but you can see where I’m going with this.

    Catastrophising is answering the “What-If” question with the belief that a result would be far worse than it probably is.  For example, someone who is catastrophising might answer the question “On a scale of 1 – 10 (10 being the most awful thing that could happen), how bad it would it be if you fell over”, with a very firm 9 or 10!  Clearly this would not be the case, even if you broke something or knocked yourself out.  There are many things that could be seen to be above that on the scale.

    So next time you find yourself saying that an event is the worst thing that could happen to you, just think for a moment, how many things would be worse.  How many things would be above that event on the scale.  I guarantee that the score you place on that event will come down!


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