What a classic example of freaking out about something that isn’t close to happening. From the sound of this entry, I wasn’t even babysitting when I started down this terrifying path of “What ifs?” That said, on more than one actual babysitting job, my parents had to deliver Janet to calm me down – and I hadn’t even seen movies like Halloween. (They hadn’t been made yet and even if they’d been available, my parents forbade us to see horror movies. Their attitude was, “If you still want to see this gore when you’re 18, fine. Until then, you don’t need it.” Given my propensity for hysteria, I can’t argue with their wisdom.
This tendency to extrapolate the most dreadful outcome of any given situation was a curse in romantic relationships. If a guy didn’t call me on time, I convinced myself he was losing interest, intended to drop me, hated me, was madly in love with my worst enemy. Once these ideas took hold, it was hard to release them and I turned into a needy clingy nutcase.
Lucky for me, one area where catastrophizing is an asset not a liability is film and television writing. When writing a movie of the week, you look for the worst possible alternative. If a husband checks out the hot divorcee down the street, odds are his wife will be dead by the first commercial break. The more trouble a writer can hurl at his hero, the more dramatic and emotionally involving the story. The principle works in fiction – not so much in real life.