Since the last blow of rejection left us dizzy, our vision of reality grows distorted.
Case in point, has this ever happened to you?
You didn’t get a call back for that job interview. You start thinking about how if this company didn’t call you back, then why would you expect to receive a call back from the other companies. You begin to question if you will ever find a job. You start thinking about your spouse and children and worry about how you can provide for them if you remain unemployed. You then wonder if your spouse will even stay with you if you are just deadweight, providing no support for the family. You can see how it is only a matter of time until your spouse takes the kids and jump in the minivan and drive away leaving you alone with the mortgage and the debt collectors. You realize you won’t be able to afford your house or rent and will end up on the streets living in a cardboard box that smells of urine.
This is what is known as catastrophizing. Catastrophizing is actually a serious problem prone to many individuals dealing with rejection. In an interesting study, Christopher Peterson and colleagues analyzed questionnaires from the Terman Life-Cycle Study and found that catastrophizing predicted mortality and accidental or violent death especially well.
Let’s take a second to think about what this study reveals. Individuals who catastrophize and who tend to irrationally fear bad events, consequences, even death, are more likely to die from accidents or violent death. This is shocking, yet it makes sense. Take the mundane example of trying to make a free throw in a basketball game. If you are so worried about missing, you most likely are going to miss the shot.
As we have learned, we tend to direct our efforts towards worrying about failing rather than directing it towards trying to succeed. We know from personal experience that when we think negative thoughts, we tend to end up in negative situations. But it is important to remember that these are not just negative situations, we are talking about risk factors of mortality.