Catastrophic Thinking

by Sabila Siddiqui

A great deal of our lives is based on Defaults. The disregarded decisions, habitual behaviors – all of which manifest in our thinking, actions, and our response to stress or crisis. One such default is 𝐜𝐚𝐭𝐚𝐬𝐭𝐫𝐨𝐩𝐡𝐢𝐜 𝐭𝐡𝐢𝐧𝐤𝐢𝐧𝐠.

I’ve often found myself playing on the darker spectrum of possibilities with the question of “what ifs” upon hearing slightest of bad news or a message “we need to talk”. The ambiguity of these would make my brain ruminate irrationally, creatively, and meticulously screenwriting an entire horror movie – automatically assuming the worst. After all, aren’t we humans good at creating our little private hell?

With catastrophization, anxiety insidiously infiltrates our thoughts and behavior. We become hyper-cautious in our actions. We suffer in our minds. We invest all our energy and time in preparing for the worst-case scenario drifting further from reality. But in the thought of preparing for the worst, we live through unnecessary emotions. We panic a lot more than prepare for it.

Minimal catastrophic thinking is healthy in rationally taking precautionary and safe decisions. But, It is when it becomes a norm for every news that comes our way. When it thrives on inaction and becomes an emotional magnet of negativity – it becomes detrimental.

Fortunately, little of our behavior is inbuilt, and our defaults are malleable. Thereby, we can always re-map our thinking and behavior. We can start by acknowledging our unhealthy thoughts, pause, and question the validity of them. Here are some questions we can ask ourselves:

1. What is the threat I’m predicting?
2. How certain am I that this prediction will come true? (0-100%)
3. What facts am I considering to come to this conclusion?
4. Does my prediction fit the facts?
5. If the catastrophic outcome happens, are there ways I can cope with it? What are they?
6. Does worrying about this catastrophic outcome prepare me for it to happen?

By asking ourselves these types of questions we can break the habit of catastrophic thinking and focus a lot more on our actions and solutions.

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