The Dangers of Catastrophizing

 

asoggetti-1199115-unsplash

Photo by asoggetti on Unsplash

 

Fear rules most of the modern world. It is manifested in many forms, whether it be anger, sadness, or a range of other emotions. I have, for quite some time, come under the strict belief that fear prevents people from achieving happiness. That it prevents them from achieving success. And while I could write a book on the importance of overcoming fear, I wanted in this post to focus on one very specific detail of fear; that of catastrophizing.

For those unfamiliar, catastrophizing is a form of slippery slope bias which is exactly as it sounds. Essentially, it prevents a person from going down a path due to the fact that the person insists that the absolute worst possible events have the greatest chance of occurring. To give a more concrete example, I’ll focus on the classic case of entrepreneurship: “I can’t become an entrepreneur, because my startup will fail, and I’ll have to file for bankruptcy, and then I’ll become homeless and won’t be able to get a new job”. This is a (depressingly) common outlook on why people refuse to start their own company, and just by looking at it you can begin to see the faults in the logic. While it is true that most startups do fail, there is no reason to assume from the get-go that yours will fail as well. And from there, we dive into… bankruptcy? What? Most startup failures won’t result in a bankruptcy unless you’re highly leveraged, which most conservative founders refuse to do. And now, all of a sudden, we’re permanently homeless. How does this work?

The truth is that while its hard to believe when it’s all laid out, catastrophizing works in waves. First, a person learns to believe in the first phase. Then, they learn to believe the second. And it continues in such a way that when we finally reach the bottom, each step in the process seems perfectly reasonable.

The one way to really get out of this method of thinking is to step back and look at why you won’t do something with new eyes. Try readdressing the scenario under different circumstances. Would this fall apply then? Also, try to understand the logic behind each one of your beliefs. Why do you really think you’re going to fail this hard? Finally, try to do some more, active research on the topic. Get opinions and data from people from both sides of the aisle – not just stories that try to confirm your apocalyptic assumptions.

Hopefully, this helps if you have been feeling similar to this about something. As always, give this blog a like if you enjoyed it, and remember to follow both the blog and my Twitter for updates on posts.

Getting out of an Unhealthy Mindset

 

 

 

I’ve spent a lot of time as of late thinking about how to change someone’s mind. Not how to change their mind on a topic, or on an argument, but how to fundamentally change their perspective. I see a lot of people out there with unhealthy mindsets, whether they be depressive, arrogant, or otherwise. I think back in my own experience to how I got out of my unhealthy mind, and I find that it’s pretty incredible that it happened at all.

I think fundamentally what helped me get out of it was keeping myself open to other possibilities. And yet, if you are in an unhealthy mindset, this can be very difficult; you aren’t going to believe that things will be better if you are in a depressive mindset, because that statement fundamentally conflicts with what you currently believe, thus generating cognitive dissonance.

So how do we avoid this cognitive dissonance barrier and get people out of these states? I believe the best answer is to do it over the long-term and focus on making incremental changes. This relates to how my own progress came about, and so I believe it could be a model that would help others as well. For example, if we instead ask the person in a depressive mindset to think about simple things like cute puppies or a good joke every time they get upset, and then slowly move that over to “well look at all these people who went through the same thing that you are going through, and got out fine” then move to “look at these charts that say the world is getting better” and then maybe, just maybe, you’ll see their mind open and begin to take on better ways of looking at the world.

Now that’s just an example, and I’ll be the first to admit that those specific steps probably wouldn’t work. Finding out a strategy that will work I leave to the reader to consider. Another big caveat (and I’ll mention this since I’ve been focusing specifically on the depressive mindset, though there are many different types of mindsets one could consider unhealthy) is that this will not work with mindsets that are caused by disorders based on chemical imbalances, as those are caused by circumstances far beyond the individual’s control and my area of expertise.

I’d also be interested in anyone else’s opinion on this theory – if you do have one, feel free to post it I the comments below. You can also (as always) take out my Twitter  for more miscellaneous musings.