Catastrophizing and Shoulds in Organizing

Catastrophizing and Shoulds are other common cognitive distortions I hear from my clients, especially during the de-cluttering phase. Catastrophizing is believing that not only will bad things happen, but they will be of disastrous proportions. “Should”, “must”, and “ought” statements reflect our rules about how we need to behave. The problem is that these statements are often not evaluated to determine if we really believe in their value. “I should keep this because my mother gave it to me”. For me, that is not a good enough reason. If it adds value to my life in some way, then I will keep it. But keeping things because of the guilt that “should” statements create does not help anyone. I am pretty sure my mother would not want me to keep something out of guilt or because I don’t want to feel sad on her behalf for picking out something I do not want. Catastrophizing kicks in when we jump to the next level and not only should I keep her gift, but that it would be too unbearably painful for her or me to even consider getting rid of the gift. Or I should keep copies of my phone bills for one year because if I don’t, something terrible will happen and I will have to pay the phone company more money than I owe.

Thinking in these ways paralizes us in fear and guilt so that we avoid getting rid of things. Sometimes we become so entrenched in these beliefs that we avoid even having to make decisions because of the bad feelings that go along with them. Changing these thoughts into healthier ones allows us to make decisions that fit with our core values and goals.

What “should”s do you want to let go of?