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Catastrophic Thinking Errors

Catastrophic thinking (the act of catastrophising) is what we do when we take a relatively minor experience and imagine it as some sort of major disaster with all of the terrible consequences that are associated with it.

A person prone to catastrophising is fairly easy to ‘spot’ as they will normally  use highly catastrophic language patterns to describe benign happenings.

For example:

I’m going to be ten minutes late for work today.

Becomes:

Oh my God it’s the end of the World! My boss is sure to fire me for being so rubbish at time keeping.

As you can see, the resulting catastrophic thinking has very little relationship with simply being late for work by ten minutes, which can happen to anybody of course.

Catastrophising turns the most minor social ‘faux-pas’ into a social disaster, a late arrival as a car accident and a small disagreement as a complete rejection and is clearly not helpful as these types of thoughts can only lead to negative emotional outcomes.

Remember that your emotional evaluation of an experience is determined by HOW you think about it, not the event itself!

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Managing Catastrophic Thinking

Whenever you find yourself catastrophising about any event, you can try the following techniques to help you re-evaluate the situation:

Gain Some Perspective

Will your boss really not be that sympathetic to you being late for the first time in 14 years?

After all, you always work plenty of extra hours during a normal week so the company is not really at any kind of loss.

Hasn’t everybody been late for work at some point in their lives and suffered no real consequences?

Losing perspective is easy, especially if you have a tendency towards catastrophising about these types of events.

Try to consider the wider range of outcomes rather than the worst case scenario every time!

Consider the Evidence

How many people have ever actually been fired for being 10 minutes late?

How many times have you ACTUALLY been late this year yourself?

Are your concerns based on anything that has actually happened or are you conclusions simply based on you ‘imagining’ you’ll be fired?

Try to make a decent appraisal of the actual evidence both for and against your catastrophic conclusion.

People prone to catastrophising tend to ignore the evidence that contradicts their own evaluations!

The World Is Unlikely To End

Remember, no matter how much of a disaster your catastrophic thinking leads you to believe, the world is almost certainly going to keep turning.

Not only that, but even if you did lose your job, you’ll get another one and who knows where that might lead to.

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