(Photo above by Mart Production / Pexels)
Picture this: You’re running late to work and hit traffic. Just last night you told yourself you’d finish the work project in the morning. Immediately your mind starts racing. How many times have I been late this year? I was already pushing my luck with this assignment, proving that I’m inadequate. Will I be fired? I’m sure traffic will be the worst since it’s later in the morning. Should I start looking for new jobs?
Keep in mind, you’ve barely started driving. This happens to everyone in one way or another. We hit a snag and start going down the rabbit hole of fear and negativity. Is there something to stop this seemingly uncontrollable vicious cycle? First, it’s good to understand why it happens in the first place.
Why do we catastrophize?
Everyone has worries and fears. It’s natural and not necessarily bad. Our worries can make us cautious and prevent us from taking unnecessary risks. Catastrophizing, however, takes it to the point to where it harms our well-being.
Researchers suggest that anxiety, fatigue, depression and chronic pain are factors that contribute to why we catastrophize. Buddhism embraces science. In fact, seeking out professional help for these issues is an expression of the care and respect we have for ourselves.
Seeking out professional help for these issues is an expression of the care and respect we have for ourselves.
How can Buddhism help us overcome catastrophizing?
Of course, we all catastrophize to some extent, but if we see our situation as hopeless we are holding on to a distorted view of the future. Buddhism teaches that an infinite number of possibilities exist in a given moment. If we have hope, we can open our eyes to those possibilities. Buddhist philosopher Daisaku Ikeda writes:
Where there’s life, there’s hope. Hope only disappears when you decide something is hopeless.
If we acknowledge that no matter how bad things look there’s hope too, we can keep inching forward and win.
However, looking carefully at each situation and seeing the sobering reality isn’t a bad thing! Buddhism does not constrain us or make us something that we’re not. Rather, its purpose is to bring the best out of our inherent qualities.
In other words, our tendency to obsess over every little thing can also be seen as our strength as we pay close attention to the details. Also seeing everything that can go wrong can also mean that we are thorough. We carefully weigh our decisions and find the best path forward.
In Buddhism, our weaknesses can be transformed into strengths. The key is to chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, which inspires us to use these natural tendencies in the best way possible. It’s a practice for truly bringing out our best selves, just as we are.
Read how Akiko Toya channeled her anxiety to fuel a successful career in disaster management.
It’s how we prep ourselves for life. Every day we have so many different scenarios that can throw us off. But if we make it our priority to strengthen the inherent goodness of our life, then naturally our lives will move in a more positive direction.
If we make it our priority to strengthen the inherent goodness of our life, then naturally our lives will move in a more positive direction.
Listen to how Erin Harris, of San Francisco, does this on a daily basis to get some tips and insights on how you can do it too!
Bottom line, you don’t have to be controlled by your tendency to catastrophize.
Bottom line, you don’t have to be controlled by your tendency to catastrophize. With chanting, you get to decide the outcome of your future. So, no matter what is happening in the moment you have the inherent power to change the direction your life will go.