A long time ago in a place far away, I went to a good therapist.
He was a good therapist because he wanted me to get better and spend less time feeling sad. He was also good because he kept things really simple.
One day, he asked me what I would change if I could. I told him I might get through the day more easily if I didn’t get so upset whenever something happened.
He asked me what I meant and I explained that several times a day I would get an eensy teensy bit upset or emotional about something unimportant and, within short time, be thinking “I can’t do this anymore.”
“What do you mean by ‘I can’t do this anymore,'” the good therapist asked.
I explained that I meant that several times a day I felt like just ending things. And that I was okay with the idea of just ending things. And that the thought of just ending things seemed like the right thing to do…it seemed natural and obvious. I explained further that it was hard to feel like I was getting better (which I was) when I kept defaulting to death wishes.
And then I waited.
I waited for him to say that I needed to go to a hospital. Or that I was in danger of being in danger. Or that he was worried about me.
But he was a good therapist. He said “You’re catastrophizing.”
Well, I was immediately relieved to hear that I was catastrophizing because, for me, catastrophizing was a habit. And I know how to break habits.
It’s not easy to break habits, but I definitely know how to do it.
I especially know how to break habits that hurt. And catastrophizing hurts.
For the next many years, as soon as I heard myself thinking “I can’t do this,” I thought of the good therapist and the definition of catastrophize.
For those of you who are unfamiliar, here’s a definition:
“Expecting the worse to happen without considering other alternative outcomes that are more likely to happen.”
I got that definition from HERE – in case you want to read more.
I especially like the example provided:
“I know that I will be so anxious that I will bomb this test and fail the course.”
That example happens to be my mantra from my school days. Just substitute the word ‘anxious’ with either ‘stupid’ or ‘ unprepared’…. I got through many years of school by telling myself I was too stupid or unprepared to possibly pass. Let’s just say that I wasn’t my own best cheerleader.
These days, I catastrophize less. In other words, these days I have a better ability to NOT roll with the habit of thinking the worst will happen when, statistically and realistically, it totally probably won’t.
And when I hear myself thinking “I can’t do this anymore,” I remind myself that thinking “I can’t do this anymore” is just a really annoying habit of mine and not the truth.
And then I turn on Abba. Because it’s really not possible to catastrophize while listening to Abba.
C’mon, what’s the worst that can happen?
(get it?) 🙂