Monday, August 14, 2006


I have a new favorite non-word! Catastrophizing!! Which I herewith define to mean, “Doing the mental-gerbil-wheel freak-out over anything large or small in your brain.”

I picked it up from a book called Adversity Quotient: Turning Obstacles into Opportunities. (Don’t rush out and buy it – it’s kind of ‘eh’ overall, IMHO.)

But if the book gives me nothing else, it gives me…CATASTROPHIZING!!!!!

At last, a word for That Thing I find myself doing altogether too frequently, over things large and small.

“Mother Chaos, we need to have a talk. I’ll see you in my office in half an hour.”

What? A talk? What kind of talk? Holy carp! It’s about that time I was late coming back from lunch! Or the missing paperwork! Or it’s because I wore blue on Tuesday! The budget is gone and they need to cut my contract!

This is followed by a minute examination of every waking moment [and a few sleeping ones] spent at work over the last eight months, seeking to discover what it is that is about to get me fired I just KNOW it!!!!!!

I think it is a natural human thing. And not necessarily a bad thing – if a few more people took a moment to ponder the worst case scenario…well. There’d be a lot fewer 3/1 ARMs out there, I’ll tell you that for nothing!

But it can get out of hand pretty quickly. I should know. I occasionally become positively frozen by the imponderables of a situation. Sometimes very small situations. Like, walking into a restaurant for a nice gentle mildly spicy lemongrass soup and being told that, so sorry, they’re out today.

{frozen, mind in a frenzy, DEAR GOD!!!!!, what to DO?!?!}

However, I don’t generally require Dr. Stoltz’s methods of Catastrophizing Cessation: snapping yourself with a rubber band (ow), slamming your hands down on a level surface while yelling “STOP!” (imagine all the funny looks I’d get in Safeway), or refocusing on something else (well, OK, I’ll give him that one – just getting up and doing something, anything, else can be a tremendous help when in the midst of a Catastrophizing Episode).

I myself have a very simple method I’ve developed over the last thirty{mumble} years of Being Like This to settle down. It’s a very, very simple question: Are any children going to die because of this?

If the answer is no, well. I think I can stand down the red alert on this deal, huh? To date, I haven’t had a ‘yes’ answer yet on anything that has set my mind to Catastrophizing.

The power of this simple question lies in its ludicrousness. OF COURSE no children are going to die because I forgot to pay the water bill! Sheesh. I’m missing the point here, which is that…uh…I forgot to pay the water bill, which is going to lead to…well, not mass hysteria and death to millions of innocents, anyway…

It’s kind of hard to continue needing to breathe into a paper bag once you realize that actually – it’s not all that big a deal.

No children are going to die – not my own, not anybody else’s.
I’m not going to die, either.
In fact, nobody is going to die.
Even if they do turn off my water.
There shall be no death.
Or dismemberment.
Or really much more than maybe a hefty dose of inconvenience.

I’ve found that it does a great job of taking away the panic mode and making me focus on the actual problem. I forgot to pay the water bill. Nobody is going to die. I need to take the following steps, one two three.

Problem solved.

With precisely zero death.

Perspective: Cure for Catastrophizing.

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