Catastrophizing & Awfulizing

Our minds are simply amazing – able to perceive, recognise patterns, reason, make abstractions, analyse, process, and make meaning of so many things – sometimes all at the same time!  In our heads, we process mental imagery, we make up words & language, expressing ourselves, and we manipulate symbols & letters.  Perhaps, most importantly, we make sense of the world and go about our business in response to what we have seen, heard & experienced.  

But there is more to our mind than simple logic or analysis.  It is not simply a computer, storing data.  Our mind is also imaginative & creative.  It interprets the world as it sees & experiences it, and then tells us how to respond.  And sometimes, that imagination runs away on us! 

The power of creative mind

Oh… the power of the mind!  The games your mind plays on you when it blows everything up into a catastrophic mess …

“Isn’t this just awful?”   

Somehow, it goes from having missed the bus to a full-blown World War III in your mind! 

It can make up amazing stories of how bad things will get – what will happen next… and we respond to those thoughts with REAL emotions!  We feel as if those things were happening, even though it is our thoughts creating that reality!  

"(Sometime) you will come face to face with the sudden and shocking realization that you are completely crazy. Your mind is a shrieking, gibbering madhouse on wheels barreling pell-mell down the hill, utterly out of control and hopeless. No problem. You are not crazier than you were yesterday. It has always been this way and you never noticed." Henepola Gunaratana

“(Sometime) you will come face to face with the sudden and shocking realization that you are completely crazy. Your mind is a shrieking, gibbering madhouse on wheels barreling pell-mell down the hill, utterly out of control and hopeless. No problem. You are not crazier than you were yesterday. It has always been this way and you never noticed.” 

Henepola Gunaratana

The same way, however, that it can make up these terrible stories of everything that will go wrong, our mind monkey mind can simply start to remember and recall all the times we messed up! 

It is like a manic teenager, yelling and screaming at us all the times we failed.  And once the inner critic gets started, it can be cruel.  Breaking us down.  Leaving us torn and tattered on the floor, in pieces from the sharpness of the sword that it wields. 

But the beauty of it all is — we get to choose.  What will you choose to think & believe about yourself and the situation?   

“Don’t believe everything you think. Thoughts are just that–thoughts.”

Alan Lokos

The same way that your thoughts & mind can creative a catastrophe, you can use this creativity to respond in a different way.  

The question is – do you want to?  

very human has four endowments - self awareness, conscience, independent will and creative imagination. These give us the ultimate human freedom... The power to choose, to respond, to change.

Every human has four endowments – self awareness, conscience, independent will and creative imagination. These give us the ultimate human freedom… The power to choose, to respond, to change. 

Stephen Covey

The first step to making a change is to recognise that you have the power over this.  This requires self-awareness.  Becoming aware of the harmful pattern of thought that is going through your mind, and then consciously choosing, through your independent will to stop this train of thoughts.  You can continue catastrophizing or awfulizing.  Or you can stop.  

“You have power over your mind – not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.” 

Marcus Aurelius

So, the event – however great or small – has occurred. 

Your perception and previous experiences may start to tell you how this is going to play out – but those are past experiences, not necessarily the current event and the repercussions of this event.  You have a choice to make.    

How will you choose to imagine this playing out?  

As I said at the beginning, the mind is a wonderfully powerful thing.  Will you allow your imagination to run away with you, creating catastrophe after disaster?  

Or will you rein it in to become the most creative force at your disposal?  

Creating a possible solution 

What I truly love about mBraining is that it has taught me to put my mind at the disposal of my heart.  No… not that my heart should decide willy-nilly like to prepubescent teenager! No, but rather that my heart should be able to lead with compassion for myself & others.  That my heart should ask the question – what is the most compassionate outcome for me and others?  

And then allow my head to get doing what it does best – making up stories, imagining scenarios, visualizing solutions.  But with one clear parameter & limitation – that what it imagines, makes up & visualizes – using all of its creative power – be compassionate for me!  Be compassionate for others!  

“Imagination does not become great until human beings, given the courage and the strength, use it to create.” 

Maria Montessori

What could you create if – instead of catastrophizing & awfulizing – you used all your mind power & creativity to create solutions instead of problems?  

6 comments

  1. Such a fantastic post! My favorite line and question was: “Will you rein it in to become the most creative force at your disposal?”

    Will definitely be sharing!

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