Thought Mine #6: Catastrophizing (often related to Magnification)

Each Thought Mine is followed by a definition and a list of examples. Please note that the following examples are representative statements. The same sentence may represent numerous Thought Mines. I list examples mainly to give you a starting point. Often individuals blend two or three “favorite” Thought Mines together into their own type of social misreading.

Thought Mine #6: Catastrophizing (often related to Magnification)


Expecting negative and exaggerated consequences. Expecting events to become terrible, disastrous, dreadful, appalling, horrific, shocking, or awful.

Negative self-talk example:

“Christmas at Mom’s house always leads to an argument.”

Couple example:

“If we drive home late we could die an awful death.”

Teen example:

“If I don’t have those shoes I’ll have no friends.”

Work/school example:

“My boss hates me and probably wants to fire me. It’s just a matter of time.”


A few weeks after Mr. Roland did not get the lateral job position he wanted, he told me about an argument with his wife, Mary.


Mr. Roland: Mary is trying to be supportive, I guess. She is constantly on me about applying for a new position. Constantly, and I mean constantly, she is hounding me to make a change. She just doesn’t understand how hard it is to get a better job!

Dr. Phil: Are you interested in changing your job?

Mr. Roland: Sure, I want to. But, why bother. I’m going to get my hopes up and then… BLAM! I’ll probably end up getting fired from the job I have.

Dr. Phil: Fired?

Mr. Roland: My boss will probably fire me because he will think that I’m not working hard enough. You know, he may get tired of dealing with me. Mary doesn’t understand. We have been arguing all week. She never lets go of an argument. She’s like a pit-bull, and I can’t get her to understand that I don’t want to lose my job.


Mr. Roland was still angry about not getting his desired job. Often magnification and catastrophizing become an angry dance. This dance was leading to arguments at the Roland house. (Note: Mr. Roland used the words “constantly” and “pit-bull” the same way he used the words “never”, “always” and “everything” back in the section on magnification.)

Catastrophizing often hides anger. The angered individual perceives the catastrophe then uses that pent up anxiety to lash out at the other. The act of lashing out often relieves the attacker’s anxiety—–leaving the victim of the emotional attack the only one still angry. The attacker often falls back into magnification (i.e., “You never let go of an argument.” or “You take everything too seriously, you always overreact.”). This allows the cycle to start anew.

More: Understanding Thought Mines

Thought Mines are social misreadings that get in the way of communicating clearly. They are thought stumbling blocks that allow us to misread, and often misjudge, the intention of others. By misreading others intentions, we can often get sidetracked from getting our needs met.


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