Controlling Catastrophic Thinking
Have you ever heard this saying or something like it: “Expect the worst. That way you’ll never be disappointed and will sometimes be happily surprised.” A person who thinks that way is called a pessimist. But what if your thinking goes beyond pessimism to catastrophic thinking? Catastrophic thinking is a condition where you honestly think that the worst thing that could happen will happen. If that is you, read on. This blog will give you some tips for controlling catastrophic thinking.
What Is Catastrophic Thinking?
Catastrophic thinking is just what it sounds like. It’s a mentality that is centered around the belief that a catastrophe is going to happen your life. When I say “catastrophe,” it might not be something like an earthquake or nuclear attack, but it means a worst-case scenario for your life. Rather than being concerned about a possible negative situation, which is normal, catastrophic thinking has only two expectations of events: “everything is fine,” or “this is a crisis.”
Here's a real-life example. When my friend's son was in kindergarten, the teacher raised a concern with his mother that he only used black crayons when he colored. When my friend asked her son about it, he said, “When the crayon box gets back to me, black is all that’s left. But if I can’t use the other colors, I’ll flunk kindergarten and then I can’t go to first grade and then I won’t graduate and go to college and I won’t be able to get a job and my life will be ruined!” That is catastrophic thinking. Normal thinking would be, “I’ll tell the teacher that all that’s left is black crayons and ask if she would get me some other colors.”
In one mindset, a problem is an annoyance but in the other mindset it’s life-or-death. Controlling catastrophic thinking would help change the life-or-death mindset into a mere annoyance.
What Are The Consequences of Catastrophic Thinking?
It almost goes without saying what the result is of catastrophizing every problem. The catastrophic thinker struggles with heightened worry, greater stress, and increased anxiety. He or she feels on edge all the time and jumps to the worst and wrong conclusion. Many try to cope with these symptoms by the use of drugs and/or alcohol, which bring their own set of problems and consequences.
Tips For Controlling Catastrophic Thinking
If you are a catastrophic thinker, there are some things you can do to control it so that it doesn’t control you. When you hear your inner voice sending you worst-case scenarios in response to a problem, stop and take a few deep breaths to relax yourself. Practice self-talk and tell yourself that in spite of how you are feeling and what you are thinking, the worst is very unlikely to actually happen. Then try to search yourself and ask, “Why am I thinking this way? Where are these beliefs coming from?” And then substitute another belief that is more reasonable and follow that. Or, if you can’t think of a more reasonable belief, ask someone you trust who is a clear thinker what they would do in this scenario.
Proverbs 23:7 says, “As a man thinks in his heart, so is he.” Proverbs 4:23 says, “Watch your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the issues of life.” We really are the product of our thinking. The inside thoughts create the outward behavior. So, the secret to change is to change the way you think. That applies to controlling catastrophic thinking. Worst-case scenarios don’t come from the Lord. God’s way is the way of faith, hope, and love. Ask Him to help you re-program your mind with His truth so that you can live according to the truth, not false worst-case scenarios.
If you struggle with getting catastrophic thinking under control, I encourage you to read more about anxiety therapy, and then reach out to us at Christian Counseling Associates for a free consultation to get you started in the journey into truth-thinking and living.
Ruby Pappachen is a Licensed Professional Counselor. She holds a Master’s Degree in Social Work and a Master’s Degree in Marriage and Family Therapy. She is a trained EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing) therapist. She is also a certified facilitator for Prepare/Enrich and SYMBIS (Saving Your Marriage Before It Starts). Ruby is taking new clients in person or online.