Mountains Out of Molehills
2016 was a bad year. My mother-in-law was hospitalized with dehydration. The same time she was in the hospital, my second eye “went.” Then, before I could even set up my network of wonderful people, my husband blew two discs in his back and spent time first in the hospital and then in rehab.
No network, no husband. I was stranded! I had no way to get to the grocery store. I was going to starve!
What is catastrophizing?
This, my dears, is catastrophizing at its finest. Catastrophizing is a very negative thought process in which we make the proverbial mountains out of molehills. If things are bad, we imagine them getting infinitely worse. I could not buy dog food, so the dog we had then, Lily, was going to turn on me and have me for a midnight snack. I would not make more than a midnight snack because, with no way to get provisions, I had just wasted away to nothing. Don’t you just love it? Melodrama at its finest but when things are bad many if not most of us do just that. But how to stop it?
How do we stop catastrophizing?
Andrea Bonior in a 2016 post in Psychology Today suggested five possible strategies.
Stay specific and don't exaggerate
First, she suggested we stay specific and don’t exaggerate. The immediate problem was I had no ready transportation. It really was not that I was going to starve. I had money and there was a taxi service. An expensive taxi service, but available. Would I spend $20 to go five miles to the store and back if it meant not falling prey to a hunger-crazed house pet? Uh, yep.
Avoid black and white thinking
Under the same bullet point, Bonior suggests avoiding black and white thinking. Wonderful! I preach against black and white thinking in DBT all of the time. Was EVERYTHING in my life soooooo bad I was going to be allowed to starve? Nope. I had people who kinda liked me. I also knew a lot of people with a social conscience who would save me even if they did not like me! Also, I am two blocks from a convenience market. Could I walk down there and survive on potato chips and twinkies until my hubby got out of rehab? Certainly a possibility.
The second bullet point was sleep. In DBT this is a vulnerability factor. We all are cranky and don’t think straight when we are tired. Get your rest.
Be in the moment and do something
Bonior’s other two points, to paraphrase, are being in the moment and get off your butt. Translation? Don’t dredge up and replay memories of every disaster you had in the past. Isn’t this one enough? And getting off your butt? That means doing something that will minimally engage and distract you and, ideally, will do something to change your mood.
Catastrophizing and DBT
As I read Bonior’s article, I see a lot of parallel points to DBT. Bonior remarked that part of our upset comes from the crazy thoughts we are having. I don’t know about you, but I KNOW when I am being irrational and it ticks me off. I know better than to do that so why am I doing it? Being judgmental of myself only adds an extra layer of anguish. Accept your thoughts and let them go.
I started this page planning to tell you how I kept from “certain starvation” (catastrophizing!), took a hard left and ended up talking about not making mountains out of molehills. Good grief. So much for me and straight lines. Next up; the joys of delivery!
Do you still drive?