What did you wake up this morning yearning for? That's right. Some theorizing. More specifically, some erroneous theorizing that can be graciously and gracefully corrected by the Catastrophizer.
Michigan Tech's Counseling Services website features a great deal of "helpful" advice intended to "support" "students" (a note to would-be writers: quotation marks are a great and easy way to cast aspersions on actual writers). It contends that catastrophizing will have a dispiriting, if not paralyzing, effect on young people and that this is a Bad Thing. This kind of anti-catastrophizing propaganda and fear-mongering is all too common, so I am obliged to word-monger.
The person caught up in catastrophizing gets "stuck" thinking that the possibility of something happening is almost the same thing as the certainty of that thing happening. If it's possible that I might mess up this test, it's certain I'm going to mess up this test.
No, Michigan Tech. It's just likely that I will fail this test because I have failed at so much in life already. If I do very well on this test, that success will ultimately prove to be inconsequential when considered in light of the other, bigger, things I have yet to fail at.
If it's possible this attractive stranger will scorn me if I try and strike up a conversation, then it's certain that he or she will.
Yet another inaccurate description of catastrophic thinking. It's not certain this stranger will scorn me. It's just all too possible, given my past romantic disappointments and the fact that I am fated to grow old and increasingly unattractive alone. If the attractive stranger does not scorn me, he/she will turn out to be stupid.
If I'm thinking I might have a heart attack this afternoon, then the fact that I'm thinking it must be a clear and accurate premonition that the heart attack is on its way-- otherwise I wouldn't be thinking about it.
I'm thinking about a possible heart attack because it's always possible I'll have one. If I limit myself to worrying just about a heart attack, though, I am not really a catastrophizer. A good catastrophizer knows that concentrating on the likelihood of one bad thing happening is doing life a disservice: at any given moment, hundreds of demoralizing or disastrous things could come to pass. I might not have a heart attack, but it's entirely possible I'll fail that test. And if I don't fail that test, that attractive stranger I've been looking at will surely scorn me. And if he/she doesn't scorn me, someone else will. Dread will always turn out to have been justified.