If you ever think the worst, catastrophise, create unnecessary drama, then today’s blog entry is for you.
So on Monday, I wrote and confessed to partaking in some catastrophisation. When you teach socratic questioning techniques as I do each year, you do tend to find yourself able to fairly calmly dissipate any tendency to awfulise or catastrophise by asking some of the classic questions aimed at doing just that (dissipating and overcoming catastrophisation):
What makes the situation so terrible, awful or horrible?
Are you making a mountain out of a molehill?
Are you exaggerating the importance of this problem?
Do you have any reason to think you might be blowing things out of proportion here?
The rational consideration of these questions and looking at the truth of the situation by answering them, does tend to help us to get a grip.
However, if the feelings themselves have taken hold, then feeling a particular way can create a cycle within us that makes us continue to think the worst!
“What if this terrible thing happens (start to imagine that thing happening and then start to feel bad…. The bad feeling makes us feel worse)… Oh no, it is going to happen… (imagined scenario starts to be perceived more vividly, turning the bad feelings up)… If this terrible thing happens, then these other terrible things will happen as a result and (more imagery, more unwanted feelings) then something else will happen and my entire life will be ruined for ever and there’ll be no way I can ever be well and happy again…”
This exaggerated and non-specific example is one way of illustrating what I mean by catastrophisation.
For some people, they imagine the worst thing happening, or think about what could go wrong immediately when presented with a scenario or a situation. This could be useful if you were on Royal Security duty, or if you were coming up with a strategic business plan. But if you have simply been invited out for a drink with friends, or are thinking about making a decision for your own life enhancement, then such thoughts of the worst thing happening – catastrophising – can prevent us from taking action and can also result in us feeling unhappy, uncomfortable and living in a darker, cynical or unsatisfactory place.
It can be useful to assess situations and make changes if we ever need to, but if we continue to catastrophise with no let up and heap pessimism on our thoughts on a continual basis, that habitual thought process can lead to it becoming second nature and in turn this could lead to worse things…
One of the other issues with constantly thinking the worst and awfulising, is that if we continue to think those kinds of thoughts, we may well even be increasing the chances of it happening. Such persistent thoughts can sometimes become self-fulfilling prophecies, can’t they?
Our minds are incredibly amazing fantastical things. The depth of complexity and realism that it can create inside our heads is immense. Instead of keeping things real, offering up some intelligent reasoning and balanced thinking, sometimes we catastrophise and our mind draws us in to drama and our physiology responds accordingly.
As our imagination creates those awfulised scenario in our minds, our body responds with all the feelings that go with that scenario, and those feelings get us on guard and as we feel that way more… So we catastrophise more as we scare ourselves in particular direction.
That cycle I referred to earlier happens.
This can be a very stressful way to live. It can mean we end up with a negative outlook on life. All roads lead to disaster….
In behavioural cognitive hypnotherapy, one of our stock processes to teach our clients, is to dispute thoughts that lead us to catastrophise, and we ideall then learn how to restructure our thoughts in a number of ways.
Today though, I am simply going to show you how to dispute the thoughts effectively with self-hypnosis and my upcoming blog entries are going to aim at us developing some thinking skills to enhance what we do and develop cognitive restructuring.
With this process today, you are simply going to run through typical situations in your life where you have negative thoughts leading to thinking the worse, and you are going to interrupt the thought process mid-flow with an alarming method of disputation.
So before starting with the process, get a good idea of the typical situations where you might have negative thoughts that lead to you awfulsing. Then also it is important for you to accept the idea that negative thoughts are not useful and can cause problems and that you intend and expect them to stop as a result of this session – frame things in a progressive and positive way, develop expectation and then get stuck in the step-by-step process that follows:
Steps To Use Self-Hypnosis To Stop Catastrophisation:
Step One: Induce hypnosis. You can do so by any means you desire or know of. You can use the process in my Science of self-hypnosis book, use the free audio we give away on this website to practice or have a look at the following articles as and when you need them; they are basic processes to help you simply open the door of your mind:
Heavy Arm Self-Hypnosis Induction Method
Using Eye Fixation for Self-Hypnosis
The Chiasson Self-Hypnosis Method
Hand to Face Self-Hypnosis Induction
Using Magnetic Hands for Self-Hypnosis
The Coin Drop Self-Hypnosis Induction
Once you have induced hypnosis, move on to step two.
Step Two: As vividly as you can, imagine yourself in the kind of situation where you would typically experience negative thoughts.
Really imagine being there. See the sights of the place, the colours, the shades of light and details. Hear the sounds of the place, notice the distinctions of the sounds around you and just engage in this place.
Allow being in this place to take you deeper inside your mind and when you are really engaged and tuned in to this place, move on to the next step.
Step Three: Start to take the actions you usually take in that situation and then pay close attention to your thoughts and how you think in that situation.
Talk to yourself and describe to yourself what your thoughts are in that situation. Start to translate your feelings into words and describe to yourself the kinds of mental imagery that happens in your mind in this scenario.
Really explain to yourself all the thoughts, ideas, imagery and feelings that you have in this typical situation. Run through the situation in its entirety.
When you have done that in detail, then move on to the next step.
Step Four: Here comes the fun…
Run through the previous step again in your mind, but this time as soon as the unwanted, negative thought and accompanying feelings starts to happen in the slightest, you imagine wild, loud sirens going off in your head and there right in front of your eyes pops up a bright and large STOP sign flashing noisily before you.
As soon as the old negative train of thought starts you create the most alarming noise in your mind, the most vivid, bright STOP sign that fills your entire imagination – fills it entirely. It dominates the mind.
Practice this step over and over, making things more vivid, more real and encourage yourself to make if more forceful each time you practice doing this. Take responsibility here too and be as creative as you like in making the stop imagery as alerting as possible to really interrupt the negative thought before it gets started.
When you feel that you have really got a hang of stopping the old thought as it starts, then move on to the next step.
Step Five: Following on from that rather frenetic step… Take a couple of minutes out now and engage in some progressive relaxation. Just imagine relaxation spreading through your body; you can do this with colour, you can simply imagine muscles relaxing, you can tell them to soften, you can imagine tensing muscles and letting them relax thereafter, you can just spread a relaxing sensation through your body using your intention and imagination. Spend some time to get your body really deeply and beautifully relaxed.
When you are feeling really relaxed, move on to the next step.
Step Six: Think of a progressive, positive, encouraging statement that you can say to yourself in that same situation in the future. Word it in the present tense, make it be something you want, not something you don’t want and let it be supportive and using the words that appeal to you, get them set up in your mind.
Now run through the same situation that we began with, while you are wonderfully relaxed, run through that same scenario and repeat this new internal dialogue statement to yourself. Say it with meaning and say it in a way that is undeniably convincing to you, say it in a way that makes you feel that you believe it to be true.
Run through the scenario 3-5 times while relaxed, repeating your new positive thought, your positive statement to yourself in your mind. When you have repeated it all those times, move on to the next step.
Step Seven: Tell yourself that you plan to bring the benefits of this session with you into real-life situations from now on. Tell yourself that you are going to STOP negative thoughts, relax and replace them with positive stattements in your mind if they ever occur again in the future.
This is going to stop catastrophisation, for sure.
Take a deep energising breath, wiggle your fingers and toes and open your eyes.
Practice this process daily for a week in your mind using self-hypnosis. Then go and place yourself in those situations and start to practice using this skill and enjoy taking control and stopping awfulising in its tracks.
It is one heck of a beautiful sunny day out there, I can’t wait to get out in it tomorrow when I visit Chelsea flower show, so I will be back here at the end of this week or beginning of next, depending on how time permits…
If you’d like to learn more or if this has resonated with you in some way, then visit these pages:
1. Has catastrophising or overly negative thinking held you back and is it still doing so now?
Coaching with Adam Eason Or Hypnotherapy with Adam Eason.
2. Would you like a satisfying and meaningful career as a hypnotherapist helping others overcome such issues?
Adam Eason’s Anglo European training college.
3. Are you a hypnotherapist for whom overly negative is detrimentally effecting the success of your business?
Hypnotherapist Mentoring with Adam Eason.
If you’d like to learn more about self-hypnosis, understand the evidence based principles of it from a scientific perspective and learn how to apply it to many areas of your life while having fun and in a safe environment and have the opportunity to test everything you learn, then come and join me for my one day seminar which does all that and more, have a read here: The Science of Self-Hypnosis Seminar.
This post has the potential to tie in nicely with the process of attraction that has become so popular lately. To me, it sounds like catastrophiseing is a form of negative attraction, and you are offering a way to alter one’s thinking, thereby altering what one attracts. The real life application you offer at the end of the exercise is a great step, and I look forward to practicing this altered thought process.
Hi Dan, I am unsure what you mean about attraction. Could you explain that a bit more for me please?
This process has its foundations absolutely and firmly based within Cognitive Behavioural Hypnotherapy and requires attention and effort to be engaged to create cognitive restructuring. I am unsure of any connection, however loosely, there is to attraction. I could be wrong, so perhaps you could explain what you mean? Thanks very much for your contribution though, it is always valued.
With my very best wishes, Adam.