Do you remember the story of Chicken Little (or Henny Penny in some cultures)? Not the movie, but the book. An acorn falls on Chicken Little’s head and he is convinced that the sky is falling. He goes as far as making a journey to see the king to warn him of this impending disaster.
The meteorologists predicted a week ago that we were going to be the beneficiaries of a significant snow storm. 10, 20, and even 30 centimetres (almost a foot) of snow was anticipated in some regions. I woke up the next morning, fully anticipating to see a blanket of fresh-fallen snow on the ground below, and there was…nothing! Just a light dusting of snow. No need for snow plows. To be fair, some other areas farther afield did get some snow.
Many times we anticipate the worst, and it never happens.
Catastrophizing. Have you ever catastrophized? It is an irrational thought that we have in believing something is far worse than it actually is. There are two forms: we can make a catastrophe out of our current situation, or we can imagine making a catastrophe out of a future situation. Example: I am late getting to work. I immediately believe I will lose my job and my paycheque, and therefore I will lose my house and my car. By the time I get to work I’m in a panic. Meanwhile, my manager welcomes me and is glad I’m at work, or suggests I leave a little earlier for work next time.
If you are prone to catastrophizing, next time ask yourself some questions. Is the situation realistic? Is it really likely to happen? Is there anything you can do to mitigate the situation? For example, perhaps you can call ahead to work to say you’ll be a few minutes late.
For me, catastrophizing is a symptom of depression. I imagine my nearest and dearest in a fatal accident, and the scenario includes a funeral. When I start thinking that way, I know I’m depressed. Just knowing that takes away the heavy emotion generated by these irrational thoughts – I do recognize these thoughts to be irrational.
Next time the sky is falling, look for the acorn.