Unhelpful Thinking Patterns 8/11 - Predictions & Catastrophising.
Updated: Aug 4
This is the eighth part of a series looking at common unhelpful thinking habits. These are patterns of thinking that our minds can slip into as a way of coping with challenging situations. You can read more about this in my earlier post here.
Those of us who identify as worriers will be very familiar with this thinking patten. It's funny, isn't it, how our minds have a tendency to jump to the worst case scenario rather than the best, or even a neutral one. This is a tendency that we all have to a certain degree because many, many generations ago, back through our ancestry, this tendency actually served as a protective mechanism.
Most of the time that humans have existed on the planet we lived a hunter-gatherer style lifestyle, without any of the comforts or technology of the modern world. It was a very dangerous existance, people were living hand to mouth, facing danger and threat on a frequent basis, perhaps even daily.
In those times, it was helpful to think about the worse case scenario as it helped our ancestors be prepared and ready to respond quickly to the constant barrage of challenging stuations. The most sucessful people were those who were most alert and responsive to danger...the chilled out guys who were playing it cool probably didn't survive long enough to pass on their genes. So over the millenia, a natural tendency towards catastrophising was passed down through the generations as part and parcel of our survival mechanism.
Trouble is, we now live in a much, much safer world (even if the alarmist popular press tries to make us think otherwise) but we still have the same tendencies and instincts as our ancestors. For some of us, the volume level of this natural inclination can become turned up a bit high, which becomes problematic and results in us running through every possible negative outcome in our heads. What our mind is doing is trying to problem solve...but more often than not, there isn't actually a problem to solve.
A popular way to start to get this thinking pattern in check is to keep a note of all the predictions that your mind is telling you, and then when some time has passed go back and review them. Annotate your notes with True/False and then see how many of your predictions actually came true. This helps you start to gather evidence to back up the perspective that not everything your mind is telling you is true (perhaps not even most of it). When I did this exercise the first time, there were so many times that I had written "false" next to a prediction I ended up writing at the top of the page:
"Lies My Anxiety Tells Me"
Another helpful exercise to help with this type of thinking is the tool that I described in an earlier post here.
And don’t forget to show kindness to yourself – slip ups are inevitable, so be open to forgiving yourself on the occasions that you fall back into the old habit; after all, you don’t want to wake up your inner critic after working so hard on that in my earlier post!