12/05/2013 03:20 pm ET Updated Feb 04, 2014

Whoa There Cowboy!

The trouble with a vivid imagination is that not only does this enable me to create a compelling future for myself and my family, my very own real life nirvana it also means that I get to create my very own living hell. Right here. Today. A feeling of frustration or a feeling of "life's a bit troublesome right now" can easily become catastrophized and the path of despair that I was having a gentle saunter down turns into a full on run down this less than salubrious road. Let me give you an example, the other day I was getting a little fraught (classic British understatement) wondering where my next client was going to come from... what to some would be a simple question to be asked followed by a logical plan of action was for me a line of thinking that went straight from wondering where my next client was going to come from to being hauled off to the workhouse. Sounds dramatic and as far I'm aware Victorian workhouses no longer exist. The feelings however were very very real. I was sucked at speed down this downward spiral that had me sobbing great big tears all over my man's shoulders. The pain of these feelings, the desperation, the hopelessness were incredibly real. Incredibly real. Rewriting it now I feel the pain deep in my belly and solar plexus.

What I needed was some internal mechanism set up to act as a kind of circuit breaker (and that my friends is as far as my scientific mind goes), I needed to find something to interrupt that crazy and clearly less than helpful line of thinking.

I'm curious though as to why I, a trained coach, still allow myself to indulge in this kind of catastrophizing...Oh yes, I know. I'm human. Like we all are and so easily forget.

This inner dialogue/self talk has the power to steer our lives in a positive, self improving or a catastrophic self defeating direction. For me at times it's like standing at a fork in the road. I know which path I ought to be heading down... i.e., the positive one, yet there is a hankering after the self judgment, self abuse, self accusatory and negatively self indulgent path that is so appealing... perhaps it's the devil I knew so well years back who calls me at times.

Why is this? Working with an incredible coach friend of mine we started digging around and I had one of those aha moments, if I'm honest an aha moment that resulted in tears. It's the old chestnut again... self sabotage.

Why the hell do we do it?

We do it for myriad reasons. We do it because we don't feel worthy, we do it because we have set limiting beliefs about ourselves, we do it because it's easy, we do it because our self esteem is crap.

Having a worst case scenario is liberating. Knowing through our own story-telling what is the worst that can happen is a bit like being at bedrock. It's where we build foundations. It's where we begin to pull back. So for me worst case scenario is the Victorian workhouse.

Let me share a few things with you on how I recover from my catastrophizing:

  • Victorian workhouses no longer exist unless I'm into time travel and frankly I've never really been a fan of Dickens.
  • I have enough money in my account to last me x months if NOTHING changes.
  • I have friends and family who would never allow me and my children to be carted off to the workhouse. There would always be a home and food for me somewhere.
  • I have talents and numerous ways to earn a living.
  • I am healthy.
  • I am happy in my relationships.
  • Right now I have enough for my current needs.

So you see we can go from catastrophe to gratitude simply from having a worst case scenario. And for those that know me you'll know that I believe 100 percent in writing down daily the things for which I'm grateful. If you'd like to do the same have a look at this journal.

Oh yes I almost forgot... 'Whoa there cowboy' it's something my daughter said to me as I was lurching down the catastrophe path one day. Made me laugh out loud and stopped me in my tracks. So I found my circuit breaker! I've made a little picture and hung it on my wall as a reminder.

And what about you? Do you find you catastrophise easily? What do you do to stop yourself? I'd love to know your strategies for living sanely!