Anticipating likely future events is crucial for our survival. Without it our lives would be a mess. “What if” thinking helps us to avoid predictable, negative outcomes. “What if” thinking is a protector.

However, “What if” thinking often goes far beyond what’s likely to occur and tries to figure out all possible negative events. Our mind quickly starts to mistake possible for likely and we assume the unlikely negative events will happen. This is called catastrophizing. 

It would be nice if we could stop the initial thoughts that lead to catastrophizing. It’s not really possible though. We don’t have control over the random thoughts that pop up.

We do have control over recognizing thoughts that lead to catastrophizing though. By labeling these thoughts, we become more aware of them, and with greater awareness comes more control and less assuming that our thoughts are true and accurate predictors of future dangers.