I fear the worst! Is there any way out of my catastrophising?

Man thinking with dark clouds around fears the worst

I have a terrible headache and I immediately fear the worst –  ‘what if it’s a brain tumour?’

My daughter is a few minutes late from school and, again, I fear that she has been abducted.

My boss gives me an odd look and, fearing the worst, I start to wonder if I am about to be made redundant.

We have all been there – at least those of us who catastrophise have been there: relatively innocuous thoughts or experiences initiate a chain reaction of ‘fear the worst’ possibilities which ultimately lead us to a position of catastrophic terror.

It can appear comical when we hear others speaking of it, but it isn’t funny when we find ourselves in its grip.

This process can pretend wisdom, of course: ‘Forewarned is forearmed,’ as the old proverb goes.

But the truth is, fearing the worst rarely protects us from reality; it simply creates in us an anxious state, in which over-thinking, escalation of fear and low confidence feed off each other.

One helpful move is to think of your mind as a railway station and your thoughts as the trains that stop at your platform.

The first step to recovery is to accept that you cannot stop the trains from arriving and opening their doors to you.

In fact, attempts to do this (thought suppression, repression or denial) usually lead to even more scary thoughts or disturbed dreams.

But whilst you cannot stop the trains from arriving at your platform, you can decide not to get on board when they open their doors to you.

‘This time, I’m not getting on,’ you say.

And when they return, as they will, you can decide not to get on again.

Stay on the platform. Watch them arrive…and watch them leave.

They’re not going anywhere you want to go.

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