Like anger and depression, anxiety comes from your self-talk. Suppose you tell yourself that others must approve of you. If someone doesn’t love you or understand you, then you tell yourself that this is terrible and you can’t stand it. See how you are going down the emotional chart that leads you to feeling anxious or even panicked? In it’s most severe form, anxiety can cripple a person and make him (or her) feel too fearful to even leave their house. He begins telling himself “What if I leave the house? Something terrible might happen. I might have a panic attack and everyone will see me. I might faint. I might have to be taken to the hospital. What if I leave the house and something happens? I won’t be able to stand it.” This is looking for a catastrophe to happen. Albert Ellis calls this “catastrophizing.” I’ve had clients who referred to this as “what if-ing.”
Many people “what if” when their children are home five minutes late. “What if he was hit by a car and is laying on the street bleeding somewhere,” or if their boss doesn’t smile, the thought in their head begins spinning “What if he’s mad at me. I know I’m going to be fired. It’s going to be a catastrophe.”
The more you catastrophize or what if, the more anxious you will feel, and that leads to more and more anxiety. Use the chart to examine your thinking. Is it rational to believe that anytime someone is a few minutes late, or doesn’t smile at you, it means something terrible is about to happen? Of course not. Once you examine your thinking errors and begin replacing them with rational thoughts, you will find that you have no need to suffer from anxiety, or to manage anxiety through addictive behaviors. Remember the car wheel that is stuck in the mud? First, stop and put on the brakes. Then examine the situation and stop worrying about everything that “might” happen. Catastrophes most likely won’t happen, and if they do, then you’ll be in a better state of mind to deal with them if you haven’t spent the day worrying and scaring yourself helpless. Have you heard the song “don’t worry, be happy.” Try making that your theme song while you work on giving up your “what ifs.”



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