Predicting the future: do you often expect the worst?

Predicting a dystopian future is a tried and true movie concept which delights us time and time again. But, as a thinking pattern, predicting the future is no action movie. Learn how to recognise this unhelpful thought pattern and how to put a stop to it.

If you are exhibiting this cognitive distortion, you’ll predict the future and tar it with a negative brush. You’ll assume the outcome you’ve predicted will be accurate without considering the odds of it occurring, or the positive alternatives.

As with many cognitive distortions, there may be a reason we are prone to this type of thinking - predicting that if you eat leftovers from last week you will get sick is useful as it stops you from partaking in six day old creamy chicken pasta - but when we have no evidence and assume the worst this can be detrimental to our happiness.

What problems does it cause?

  • You react to what you have assumed will happen rather than what is actually happening
  • Worry about things that never happen
  • Consider the link between Catastrophising and Predicting the Future and you have the recipe for a disastrous situation

What does it sound like?

  • ‘I’ll never find love or have a committed and happy relationship’
  • ‘I am going to fail my whole degree, I’m never going to find a job that I love and I am destined to be destitute for the rest of my life. I am a failure.’
  • ‘We won’t win that pitch because…’.
  • ‘I won’t be able to do that because…’
  • ‘You watch it’ll be too late by next week’

What can you do?

Question your predictions

  • Catch yourself predicting the future. Ask yourself: what evidence do I have in support of and against this prediction?
  • Consider alternative outcomes. Are there plausible positive outcomes?
  • Try to assess your predictions. Are there certain times where you feel making a negative prediction prepares you for a difficult task? What makes you feel this way? Consider the cost of the prediction - does it make you feel anxious? Unmotivated? Use this to determine whether your predictions are helping you
  • Use your chnnl journal to keep a track of predictions and equally what actually happened. Often people recall that it wasn’t half as bad as they thought it might have been.

In summary
If your predictions are causing you undue stress and worry about circumstances that never eventuate it may be a good idea to reflect on whether these predictions are helping you. We’re not suggesting you eat that six day old chicken without fear of repercussions, but do consider the impact of your thought patterns and try to consider both positive and negative possibilities.

Information and resources provided by chnnl is general in nature. It may not be relevant to individual circumstances, is intended as a support tool only and should not be relied on as a substitute for professional medical advice. If you have specific questions or concerns please seek advice from a qualified professional.