I suffer from a long heritage of what my family lovingly calls 'catastrophizing.'
Definition: The act of coming up the absolute worst case scenario 99.9% of the time.
If it can be thought of, you can guarantee my mother, siblings, and I have thought it.
'Okay, if someone decides to come in and kill me while my husband is gone then I'll run into the kids bedroom, barricade the door and scream bloody murder out the window.'
The problem with catastrophizing is that it has another name--Anxiety. Once, when seeing a counselor for my crazy lady issues, I was told that I needed to stop entertaining such thoughts.
Stop thinking the way I thought? I didn't even know if that was possible!
Then I remembered a song from my childhood:
"If on occasion you have found
Your language is in question,
Or ugly thoughts come to your mind,
Then here’s a good suggestion.
Just hum your favorite hymn,
Sing out with vigor and vim,
And you will find it clears your mind."
This has become my mode of attack.
When I kiss my kids goodbye in the morning and wonder if I'll ever see them again I stop myself and I try my darndest to not think about it. When that doesn't work--because inevitably it won't--I start humming.
"I need thee every hour, most gracious Lord;
no tender voice like thine can peace afford.
I need thee, O I need thee;
every hour I need thee;
O bless me now, my Savior, I come to thee."
Sometimes I have to sing really loud to drown out the thoughts, but it always works.
And the amazing thing is: The more I train my mind to not think those thoughts, the less the thoughts come to mind. Through my trial to overcome anxiety I have learned that self-control is more than just not eating the cookie that's staring you in the face.
Self-control is the power we have over our every thought and action. It's like something a quiet monk in the mountains of Tibet might aim for. Control over body can only come from control over our mind.
I once had a Bishop tell me that he meditated every day for at least 15 minutes--that once, every day, he worked at clearing his mind of all thought.
"How do you do that!?" I asked (I'm not one to have a quiet mind).
"When I started, it was really hard, but I imagined myself kneeling before the Lord and I emptied every other thought from my mind."
I was impressed. I'm still impressed, because my mind is an ocean in the midst of a hurricane. I rarely have control for more than a few moments (generally during writing).
But I'm learning and I'm trying and everyday I get a little bit better at not catastrophizing. Like this morning I only entertained the idea of never seeing my children again for about half a minute instead of the half an hour it used to be.
I'm glad I'm only thirty. It gives me some time to get myself reined in before judgment.
What do you do to control your thoughts?
Cannwin spends her time searching for her inner Shakespeare in the hopes that one day she will be able to dethrone the king and take her place as the greatest writer of all time. She currently resides in South Dakota with her husband and four children. You can explore more of her world at The Great and Random Ramblings of Cannwin, The Literary Soundtrack, and askCannwin.
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