Why not go with positive thinking?

At times my brain seems to have a black belt in catastrophizing

Do you ever overthink things? This could apply to a lot of thinking, but I’m talking about having that argument with someone in your head hours or perhaps even days before you actually talk to that person. “Well I bet they will say this, well I’m going to say that,” and so it goes. I’m good at doing that.

My “overthinking” can also be about anticipating the worst in a situation and then playing out the scenario of what’s going to happen, how the situation will unfold (I immediately go to this being a seriously bad outcome) and this all takes place long before the particular event even happens, or if it even happens.

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I can be bad for overthinking. I’m better than I used to be, but it can still sneak up and bite me in the butt. My thinking takes me to a very loud argument in my head, or in the worse case, a world-ending scenario. And the fact is that 99.9 per cent of the time there is nothing there to be upset about or to fear. That concocted scenario never happens, all that stress was for nothing.

It wasn’t long ago the taillight burned out on my truck. I needed to get it replaced, but I had a busy day. How was I going to fit this all in? That day, I had a work lunch planned and I remembered almost next door to the restaurant there was a Canadian Tire. Well that makes it simple. I’ll drop the truck at Canadian Tire, go for lunch and then it will be ready after lunch, so I could head to my next meeting in the afternoon. That was a good plan.

So as I was driving on Deerfoot Trail, heading toward lunch, I got thinking about the taillight repair plan. My thinking starts (most of my best thinking happens when I am alone in the cab of my truck). I bet I’m going to get to Canadian Tire and there’s a ridiculously long line at the service desk. I really don’t have time to wait. And if I do wait and they say it will be done in an hour, I bet they won’t have it done. To heck with them, I’ll just take the truck and go, but I’ll never go back to that store again. And best of all — I’m surprised the taillight burned out, maybe it’s not just the light bulb, suppose it is some sort of electrical or wiring problem with this truck. It is probably going to cost me about $5,000 to get this repaired. I don’t have $5,000.

I’m driving on Deerfoot, I am angry and upset over the expected $5,000 repair bill. I am gripping the steering wheel, this is just devastating. So, for a few minutes my stress level is through the roof. But somewhere I found the thought, “What the heck are you doing, Lee, you haven’t even got to Canadian Tire yet — relax, let’s see what happens.” At least that helped dial things back to a slow rolling boil.

A few minutes later, I pull into the Canadian Tire parking lot, there is no one in line at the service desk, the clerk says, “No problem, the truck will be ready by 1 p.m.” I went for lunch, came back at 1 p.m., the truck was ready, it cost $35 and away I went. Yet an hour earlier my anxiety had buried the needle — I was facing a long wait, and in the best case they wouldn’t fix it and in the worst case, which was most likely, the truck would be a writeoff, not worth fixing.

I started to have another of those meltdowns this morning, after my six-month-old TV acted up last night. My thinking went to having to junk the TV or at best deal with the great inconvenience of having to return it somehow. It turns out with a quick call to the manufacturer service desk they suggested I unplug and then plug in the TV again. Glory be, the problem was solved. But first I had to go through the stress and anxiety, playing out the scenario that this was the end of the TV.

I remember listening to a well-known psychologist the late Dr. Wayne Dyer explain one time during a TV talk that this thinking might be just human nature. He said if there is a situation ahead with an unknown outcome that could equally be either positive or negative, it appears to be human nature to follow the negative thinking. For some reason it is some sort of comfort zone. His message, of course, to reduce your blood pressure why not go with the positive thinking. So I am working on that — I try to get there when I can remember.

I also remember a line I heard one time about pessimism. The nice thing about being a pessimist is that 10 per cent of the time you can say I told you so, and 90 per cent of the time, you end up being pleasantly surprised.

About the author

Field Editor

Lee Hart

Lee Hart is editor of Cattleman’s Corner based in Calgary.

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