If so, I can assure you you’re in good company. It’s not something I’ve ever had to deal with myself, but lots of my clients have. And it’s very specific – a fear that when they are old, they will not have enough to meet their basic needs. That they will end up eating cat food or trudging around with a shopping cart, living in abject poverty. It’s time to declutter your mind from this kind of thinking about your financial future!
These fears are a form of distorted thinking and this one is called Catastrophizing.
It can take two forms.
One occurs when something negative or unpleasant happens to you financially (say, you go into debt, or you don’t get a raise, or you overspend) and your mind quickly exaggerates that into worst case scenarios: I’ll never get out of debt so I’ll get kicked out of my home, I’m never going to have enough in my RRSP/pension so I’m going to have to work ’til I die, I can’t handle money and won’t have any left when I’m old.
Another occurs when you hear bad news about the economy, or someone who really is facing severely difficult times. Your imagination runs wild and you envision all kinds of horrible circumstances for yourself in the future: If they were a decent, middle-class person and that happened to them it could happen to me! The economy is going to collapse and I’m going to lose everything too!
The effects can be crippling – you feel doomed before you even try to ensure your old-age is reasonably secure! You lose sleep, you may suffer full-blown anxiety attacks, and you may divert energy towards a panic-driven reaction to a future that hasn’t even happened yet. It’s exhausing!
If you are prone to catastrophizing, here are some steps you can take to help.
1. Name it as catastrophizing. Pause your imagination, and remind yourself that it is a known phenomena and it is distorted thinking.
2. Ground yourself in the present. Take several deep, slow breaths. Feel your feet on the ground and your hands by your sides and your head on your shoulders. Take note of your surroundings – the sounds, the smells, the people around you. Bring yourself fully back to your present, which is where you belong.
3. Ask yourself silly questions –> Did I inherit a crystal ball? –> Is it true that everything I think is going to happen always happens? Do I have that super-power and someone forgot to tell me? –> Should I call CNN and tell them what is going to happen? Of course, ask these questions with a gentle affection for yourself!
This is the second of our financial decluttering series which focuses on our messy thinking. Last week we explored the distorted thinking pattern called filtering. Check it out if you are prone to thinking the worst of yourself and your finances rather than appropriately acknowledging the good aspects of you and your money. And come back next week for ideas on combatting another form of distorted thinking.
photo credit: AnnieGreenSprings