When your mind magnifies your problems

By David Joel Miller

My Magnifying Mind.

Magnifying mind

Magnifying mind.
Photo courtesy of Flickr

Pole-vaulting over dust bunnies.

This recurring human habit to make mountains out of molehills, say it any way you like, but the truth is that my mind can make the smallest inconvenience into a major problem. Does yours?

Do you find that a major part of the stress in your life comes from worry and planning for things that never happen? What if the car won’t start? Do you say to yourself “That would be awful, unbearable, I just couldn’t stand it?”

This habit, to focus on the minute and miss the important, is sometimes referred to as “catastrophizing.” Focus on the risks and your depression and anxiety can expand to fill every moment of your life.

Absolutely it pays to plan for possibilities. You need issuance. Car insurance is a requirement in most places and those who do not have it face dire consequences when they get in an accident. Fire or homeowners insurance is recommended. So is some form of disaster preparedness.

Do you worry about what will happen if—but do nothing about it?

What if you NEVER get a job again? That is a possibility. But rather than stress on what if’s consider what you are doing to find a job. What are you doing to make yourself more marketable?

Did the boss say he needs to see you this afternoon? Do you immediately think that you are going to get chewed out, maybe even fired and you don’t even know what you did?

When you girlfriend or boyfriend doesn’t answer your call, do you start thinking they are out with someone else? Do you imagine that they never want to speak to you again? Do you worry that if this person dumps you then you will NEVER have another lover in your life? You will live the rest of your life lonely.

That is your magnifying mind at work.

Some people worry so much about their lover breaking off the relationship that they anger themselves over this possibility. They may become jealous, violent or very often they break up with the partner first.

Their magnifying mind has turned a small delay in hearing from someone into a major catastrophe.

You are running late to work; there is traffic today, like every day. There is that report you still need to finish and if you are late there may be no coffee left in the break room. What if there are messages and emails to return. And you forgot to take something out to defrost for dinner.

Do you think “Today is sure to be a disaster.”

The repeated piling of one worry on top of another can overload the brain and result in an inability to do anything at all. If you abuse substances you may decide to stop for a drink so you can cope. If you suffer from anxiety or depression you may fall apart and decide to skip work today.

All of these things happen when our mind turns the magnifier on those usual problems of daily living and magnifies them to impossible proportions.

If you have a magnifying mind, turn that lens the other way and shrink those problems back down to their true size. Live today in today and leave the worries of later for then.

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For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog check out my Google+ page or the Facebook author’s page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings, and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books


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