It will be a disaster!
Does anyone else’s brain LOVE to envision a catastrophe? When you think of doing something (especially something new) does your brain like to tell you all the ways things could go wrong?
Mine does this. I am used to it now and I can much more easily pick up on it and love it back into confidence and envision a more delightful outcome. However for a long time, this is how my brain worked and it took over.
Our brains like to tell us this is totally rational and we are just preparing so that we can make a contingency plan. Some like to say they can worry themselves into a positive outcome. Yeah, sure, you can do that if it works for you, although it could prove to be a strain on your nervous system in the long term. But as I have mentioned in a previous post (see Best Bits of Burnout Part II: Feeling the feelings), we do not have to make ourselves suffer for no real reason but in fact, a made up story.
Cognitive Distortion - it can happen to everyone
I learned that catastrophising is an example of “cognitive distortion,” other examples are: thinking you know what other people are thinking (i.e. judging you) and disqualifying the positive (only recognising the negative aspects of any situation).
These traits are common and can happen to everyone at some point. But for those of us who experience depression or anxiety, they tend to be pretty dominant which can be exhausting, causing stress hormones to be released, which in turn can lead to more disastrous thoughts. It can be a vicious circle.
Lets go round and round again…
I was recently asked by a client how therapy works. When you are in that state where that part of your brain is so dominant, it loves to make you think there is nothing else out there. There is no solution to your problems, “lets go round and round and round again just to prove that there is no solution. We will be stuck in this loop forever.” Sometimes it makes you think you have to change or control the situation around you to feel better. This is sometimes not possible. Or even if it is, your problems will more than likely follow you to the next situation.
Other parts of the brain - the ones that are calming, confident, compassionate and feel connected to other people - are kind of "offline" when your brain is spiralling in that anxious way. We become afraid of other people’s judgement, maybe even think everyone is out to get us and don’t feel confident in ourselves or our abilities.
Tapping into the calmer side
Therapy helps us bring these other parts of the brain online. We become more integrated. All feelings get felt, not just fear and despair. The external situation or problems don’t necessarily go away but our internal life looks completely different: resourceful, calmer, more confident. It becomes easier to recognise these thoughts and know “Ah! That isn’t true! That is just a trick, brain!”
Through therapy or meditation or breath work or whatever works for you, we can become more aware of what is happening in our mind without immediately identifying with it and letting it take over. We can even watch the thoughts go round and round and round, knowing how this will end (i.e. probably nowhere, except maybe a sleepless night). We can then break that thought loop with different tools which remind us that the world isn’t as scary as our brain would like us believe!
The Universe loves you
There is so much more out there than that small part of the brain. There’s a whole Universe out there and it is rooting for us all, it wants us to succeed, whatever success means for you personally.
Just take a moment…
So don’t forget to stop and take a breath and ask yourself “is that thought true? Or is my brain just making things up to scare me?”