Thinking Trap #3 – Catastrophizing
Catastrophizing is a form of thinking trap that has one to believe that the worst will occur in a given situation. The difference between this and probability overestimation is that catastrophizing is all negative and that things will happen or end badly if some end game does not occur. For example, say that you do not do well as well on a project for work. It didn’t mean you did poorly, just that you were not the star or did ok. A catastrophizing mindset could think, “oh my, I didn’t do well on this project. I know they are not going to give me any other special projects, or demote or fire me!” Another one could be, “If I don’t do well on this test, then I must not be a good enough student to be here in this college/major.” Or “Man, if I don’t completely please my girlfriend in every way, she is going to go with the other LL – Ladies Love Leroy!”
You can see how that puts a lot of pressure on you and your performance. Therein lies one of the core thoughts – if I do not perform – I am toast! Although some see that as a challenge that motivates them, others see it as anxiety producing.
So what to do?
- Examine your experience. Have you always lost jobs? Flunked classes? Lost girlfriends/boyfriends to others vs. just breaking up?
- What are other possibilities? Force yourself to think of 2-3 other possibilities or ways this situation could turn out.
- What are the 3 worst things that could happen?
- Are any of these actually fatal?
- What did you do before when something negative occurred ?
Catastrophizing can eat at your sense of self-efficacy, thus your esteem. Now if you have been acting like Spiccoli on Fast Times at Ridgemont High then yes you could be in trouble. But if you have been a solid citizen then chances are there are other options besides catastrophizing.
As always, chin up, eyes forward, mind open – and let’s get it started!