All times of significant change have an absence of reassurances like certainty, context and information. And our highly creative minds work against us by filling the void with worst case scenarios. Nature abhors a vacuum, and so, it's our primitive protective response. That's why it seems normal to catastrophize and awfulize in the face of change, even though most situations aren't as devastating as our anxiety says they are. Now, mental health professionals typically remind us to remove extreme negative language from our vocabulary during these turbulent experiences. Doing so raises our frustration tolerance when we get less of what we want. And the majority of time, that advice is correct. Sometimes, though, when shit starts to get a little too real, catastrophizing can be a surprisingly cathartic experience. It can fortify you against bad news that’s coming down the pike.
CROSSBREEDING — Giving yourself permission to fantasize in both positive and negative directions
Perhaps your creative well has run dry. Or you’ve had a series of poor performances. Or business in your practice is slow right now. Or everyone else on your team is thriving, but you seem to be firing blanks with your ideas. Try this exercise. Give your negative thoughts permission start reproducing and crossbreeding. Imagine every worse case scenario that could happen to you. If possible make a physical list to see them printed on paper or a screen in front of you. As your thoughts bouncing around your head like pinballs, don’t judge yourself for being so negative. Instead, purge all of this toxicity out of your system and see if the negativity runs out of steam. Start awfulizing like a pro. Ask yourself, what wouldn’t a naive person think in my situation? Consider the horrible chain of events that might arise from your upcoming predicament, from financial to psychological to interpersonal. Have fun with. Put your creativity to work for you in an unexpected way. Let things get real dark real fast. You will likely find that it’s deeply cleansing. Fantasizing in a negative direction honors those thoughts and gives you permission to go down the pessimistic rabbit hole, trusting that it will not be an emotional place you can’t come back from. Often times, that exercise will open up space in your mind. Now that there is nothing left to worry about, your brain will have room to make the mental railroad switch into positive territory. Which invites you to start fantasizing about the best case scenarios.
I will often feel the change in my physiology while doing this exercise. Because the fact that the positive scenario happened inside my mind means that it is possible outside in the world. Now that I've challenged myself to fantasize in both directions, it will feel like I have already been to both places, and now it's only a matter of time which one becomes reality.
As with most of the tools of pcm, this one won’t increase your success, but it increases your field of vision, and that allows you to better notice the opportunities that lead to success. If you're feeling out of control in the face of unexpected change, remember this. Mindset may not affect outcome, but it does affect experience. What wouldn’t a naive person think in your situation?
Purge emotional toxicity out of your system cathartically
Free up new space your anxiety mind that can be filled with optimism
Increase your field of vision to notice more opportunities to that lead to success
Navigate life’s inevitable emotional turbulence in an honest, life giving and creative way