Friday, April 1, 2011

What's The Deal With All The Catastrophizing?

Remember back a few months when I did a series on challenging cognitive distortions and irrational beliefs? If not, you may want to start from the beginning and check our my 1st and 2nd posts on identifying cognitive distortions as well! One of the cognitive distortions I see frequently is catastrophizing or awfulizing. How often do you hear (or even say) something like one of the following phrases:

  • That speech was HORRIBLE
  • I did a terrible job on that test
  • The weather is so wretched right now
  • That person is just miserable to be around
Brainstorm for a moment what this sort of speech does to yourself and to those around you. Does it dump pessimism and negativity around you? Does it decrease mood? Increase stress and anxiety? Leads you to feel like a failure? Does it lead to decreased productivity?

How many things that we label some sort of awful experience, catastrophe, or something truly terrible actually are that bad? If we use these words to describe an annoying person, a poor grade on a test, a mess up on a speech, or something like a little cold or stormy weather, what words do we have to describe things like genocide, murder, abuse, or natural disasters? 

The next time you are tempted to use an extreme word, check yourself. Is it really that awful? Can you really not survive it? Try to challenge yourself in using those words, and use a softer and more accurate word (unpleasant, upsetting, rough, difficult, etc...) word to describe the situation. 

What you can do:
  • Challenge Yourself in Using Extreme Words- Don't Catastrophize Situations!
  • Make it a game with your friends, family, or Co-workers- Check each other when you use (or catch someone using) the extreme words, and see how can find a more accurate sentence to replace it first!
What do you think the effects of Catastrophizing or making situations more terrible then they actually are? Is this easy to do? 

1 comment:

  1. I have a daughter that takes catastrophizing to whole new level. She can win awards at school and have glowing praises from her teachers, but when she doesn't gets elected Secretary of Student Government instead of President, her life is ruined. She's also a perfectionist (can you tell?) Unfortunately, I have probably modeled this behavior for her, and I am now trying VERY hard to help us look at our triumphs and our disappointments in a more realistic light. It's been hard work, but I don't want our life to be characterized by "all or nothing" statements.

    Thanks for visiting my blog! I am looking forward to getting more tidbits of wisdom from your blog!