I don’t really catastrophize, but I am starting to realize other people do and I do under some circumstances. When people say, “Don’t think too much,” that is what they are saying. They are saying don’t let your mind run in circles creating stressful, imaginary situations. It has taken decades for me to understand this, because I don’t do this. It is possible I used to and I can no longer remember it. When I get stressed, I focus on the emotion of it. I mostly concentrate on breathing. My brain might go on trying to solve the problem, weighing pros and cons of different alternatives, but most of my energy is focused on something in my body. I know that I used to try to consider whether the thing I was worried about justified worry, or whether I was seeing things in distorted ways. Then I realized that didn’t help, and I turned my attention to trying to get my body to calm down, which is really difficult, but helps. The thing that tires me out when I am stressed is concentrating on calming my body down. This is hard to explain to anyone, and probably hardly anyone actually does this. If I have insomnia, it’s because it was too hard to get my body to calm down, and it took 2 or 3 hours of concentration to get it there. In that way, I am different.
But the situation with C made me realize that I do when other people invalidate me. That is the first that happens in my head, and it’s terribly difficult to deal with. I share my worry with someone, they invalidate it, and then I have to deal with a scared brain feeding me scared thoughts, and it feels like I would prefer to just plod on alone with this. I think it’s an attachment strategy: Fucking pay attention to the problem and help me already. It is the same as other kinds of dramatic, attention-getting acts. The idea is to get alert someone to the problem. I can see how in a group of human beings, this would be very important. If one member of the group notices a problem and no one else does, it’s very important that person gets the attention of others and enlists their help in addressing it. It’s part of being a team player—signaling to others about a problem—and there would be that instinct to intensify signaling behaviours if others don’t notice them.
In one’s own brain, it’s hell, and I truly hate it. I hate the things it makes me do. I emailed someone in the office in Thimphu about my situation and I just said I don’t know what I will do about C. She replied, “Don’t worry. I am sure her family will take care of it.” It felt totally maddening. I wouldn’t be involved in her life if her family took care of her adequately. It suggested total lack of logic or even common sense to me, and I replied that the abuse in the family seems to be extreme, which is true, but maybe not what I most wanted to say.
I actually don’t know how to take what she said, when I think about it, other than “I will not help you or support you.” Or, possibly, “You are an idiot for understanding the problem in this way.”
I cannot imagine why someone would say that. I absolutely cannot. I can speculate about it, but it is this total black hole in my head. I suppose that is why I reacted the way that I did. But I regretted that response later, and I see now that it was a kind of catastrophizing.
The same thing happened in my head when my friend, Arts Sir, was telling me to send C back to her parents, because it was less risk for me. I imagined terrible things for her, which are not totally unrealistic, but it wasn’t the kind of thinking that was going to help me think clearly about the situation. It just created massive fear in my head, like so much fear it felt impossible to think.
I think the fear intensifies in response to invalidation because, first, there is this signaling impulse: no, really, I have to tell the pack this is a problem. And then, when the signaling doesn’t work, there is an isolation, which for human beings as social animals creates more fear. At the time, Arts Sir’s response made it very clear to me that sending her back to her parents was not a good option, even if it didn’t result in total destruction of her life and future. It scared me to think about because there was something wrong about it. And that was a good outcome for me, but the fear in my head was not nice. I hated it. It also made me want to isolate myself, like this is why I don’t like talking to people. They make things worse.
There was some kind of point to this, but I forgot it. Sorry. J