We all have irrational moments, we’ve all imagined the worst case scenario before we have even seen the facts.
Sometimes we get one thought and before we realise it, we’ve attached a story to it and built it into something much bigger. It explodes into a huge scenario, when it only started as a simple spark whirling around.
It’s easy enough to do, one minute you’re thinking about whether you locked the front door and before you know it you’re imaging the door swinging wide open, your pets running wild and everything in your house suddenly missing!
This is often known as catastrophic thinking or catastrophe anxiety, where we tend to escalate things quickly and often without any rational thinking behind it. Take earlier this month, I started to run out of petrol, suddenly I was imaging my car completely stopping in the middle of the road. Of course then I thought, well something would obviously hit me, before I knew it, I was close to tears thinking about how I’d never made plans for my funeral or told my loved ones I loved them!
It isn’t just about the huge things in life, it can be little things, like someone taking too long to text back and before you know it you’re panicking that something awful has happened to them or that they hate you, when in reality it’s just bad signal.
It’s hard to stop attaching stories to our thoughts, even though our thoughts are not necessarily real. I remember an example from a course I once went on, where the instructor showed us the scenario;
‘Your manager who normally stops and talks to you every day, suddenly stops and doesn’t stop by for a couple of days’
He asked us to all consider what we felt was happening and to see what story we immediately imagined. With all of us having different stages of anxiety, you can imagine the results;
‘She hates me!’
‘I’m getting fired!’
‘She’s found out that I do my Amazon shopping from work!’
‘She must have seen my texts moaning about work!’
All of them ending in the worst case scenario. He then went to explain that perhaps the manager was just busy, maybe she herself was stressed and had lost track of time. It was at this point that it suddenly dawned on my how much of a story I had attached.
You have to be careful that you don’t let your storytelling rule your life, it’s easy to see bad news on the TV and immediately take yourself to the worst case scenario and then feel like never leaving the house again.
But you deserve better. The first step in getting control of it is by trying to make yourself more aware of it. If I feel myself spiralling and storytelling, I try to take a deep breath and tell myself – this is irrational. It isn’t always easy, but talking about it does help, whether that’s with a friend or a counsellor, so never be afraid to just speak out about your worries, even if they feel silly to you.
If you find that you’re really good at storytelling, then write it down! You never know, maybe you can turn something negative into a positive!
In the meantime, give yourself something to laugh at and have a read of my top 10 irrational fears and remind yourself that you are not alone.
At the end of the day, fires need oxygen to keep the spark alive and so do your worries. So don’t give them the fuel to grow bigger, thoughts are thoughts and nothing more.