Catastrophist \ kə-ˈta-strə-fist \ noun
One who imagines the worst-case scenario as something so completely horrific that it borders on the absurd. A catastrophist usually starts by asking, “Yeah, but what if?”* Also see: Anderson Cooper, Lisa Anselmo
I once heard Anderson Cooper describe himself as a “catastrophist” in an interview about his life with his mother Gloria Vanderbilt, who, despite her young life drama, was quite the opposite. He explained (and I’m paraphrasing) that he always imagines the worst possible outcome or problems of every scenario, and therefore is always prepared for the catastrophe that, in his head, will inevitably befall us all.
Thank God, my sickness has a name! I thought as I listened. I was no longer a freak. Well, no longer the only freak. I view life the exact same way.
Anderson was only 10 years old when he lost his father from a heart attack, and 20, when his older brother committed suicide. This shapes a person.
I grew up, like Anderson, in a loving home, but there were some issues that likewise shaped me, made me a fixer. To create what my young mind thought was stability, I learned to see all the possible pitfalls and mastered how to avoid them. Being a catastrophist made Anderson an agile war correspondent. And it made me a damn good creative director. But being a catastrophist in daily life? Not so happy-making.
You know what I’m going to say, right? I saw this coming a mile away. Well, not this exactly, but something global that would crush the economy and shut borders, possibly erasing the lifestyles we’re accustomed to. But being always prepared for the end of the world, like some goth boy scout, I had started to stock up my pantry over a week ago. I was telling my friends to do likewise, and to stop going to cafés, stay off the Métro, work from home. “Take this seriously,” I said. “Now.”
I promise I won’t say, “I told you so.”
Of course, the catastrophist suffers because of how we think. We sit and wait for disaster, and that can make us more fragile, emotionally. This notion that we can make ourselves immune from pain or loss by planning for it, is completely bogus. There is no panacea for life.
This notion that we can make ourselves immune from pain or loss by planning for it, is completely bogus.
Just because I see possible catastrophe does not mean I am any more prepared emotionally than those of you who are still blithely going about your lives, posting funny Coronavirus memes on Facebook (though wake up a little, huh?). The difference is, people like me might suffer more because we are more likely to see only doom, whereas someone who is more mentally strong might weather this better. They might even heal faster if they become sick.
We who seek disaster will always find it. And the world will hand us plenty. I feared something would destroy everything I worked so hard for, and if that’s how I want to see the world, then my mind will find the catastrophe it seeks.
This is not lost on me, and I’m working to address this. Because how we think is how we are. We create our world with our minds, write our stories with every thought, gesture, and word. What is the story you are writing for yourself in these times? If you want to see the end of the world, you will. Even if it’s not.
Tip for today: Take control of your mental health
Limit your time on social media to 30 minutes a day to create a more peaceful you. Being inside your friends’ heads all day will make you crazy, so take charge of your mind—what you feed it, and what you put out there to others.
Yes, get the facts, and yes, take them seriously. But beware of rumors and unfounded advice, articles that are designed to seed fear and panic (they might be planted by bots), and general fear-mongering within your circle. Before you read or post an article, ask yourself: 1) does this pertain to my immediate community/country?; 2) is it useful or helpful?; 3) can I do something about this? If you answer “no” to any one of these, move along.
Listen, if you’re desperately poking around on Facebook all day searching for some news or facts to make you feel better, you’re using social media as a means to control this thing. We can’t control it, so don’t try to. We just have to live it, and do our best to take care of ourselves and others. Listen to the mandates to stay home and be responsible. That’s all you can do. We’re in for a long ride. How do you want to spend this time?
Books are Better!
*Courtesy of UrbanDictionary.com