Catastrophic Thinking

In North America, catastrophic thinking and extreme anxiety have soared in the past 20 years. This doesn’t correspond to any actual changes in the outside world, yet it’s a veritable sea change in terms of individual psychology. 

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10 thoughts on “Catastrophic Thinking”

  1. This doesn’t correspond to any actual changes in the outside world, yet it’s a veritable sea change in terms of individual psychology.
    It doesn’t?
    What do you mean by “the outside world?” What do you think of as an “actual change?”

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    1. “What do you mean by “the outside world?””

      • In this context, everything that exists outside the psyche.

        “What do you think of as an “actual change?””

      • I’ll take anything, as long as it’s observable.

      To clarify, the statement I posted comes from my analyst who says it’s shared by all the rest of the analysts he knows and talks to at conferences.

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      1. When you think of an observable change within the last 20 years I think of two major ones: the increasing ubiquity of the internet and climate change.

        1)In 20 years we went from some people having dialup modem access to so many people having smartphones and the internet in the palm of their hands. This is a definite change in WEIRD countries. You’re not going to tell me that being a sneeze away from having a Star Trek tricorder isn’t a major change.

        2)Every time I go back and visit the town of my birth, it’s noisier, hotter and more polluted. I can feel it in my lungs. Every time there’s a hotter wetter growing season here, it freaks out the trees, which release pollen and my allergies get worse.

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  2. So what do you think is happening? If so many individuals have similar psychiatric changes, those have to be related to and transmitted (for lack of a better word) by something external, even if what’s external means social networks rather than toxins in the environment or changes in important societal aspects (income, unemployment, etc.).

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    1. I honestly have no idea. Anxiety at this level serves to keep together the psyche that is afraid of fragmenting. So what is it ? The social media? I have anxiety and catastrophic thinking in spades but I don’t see how social media are impacting that. My husband has it in an even greater degree and he’s not entirely sure what social media even are because he doesn’t use them.

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      1. Human beings are social animals so even if you both avoid social media altogether and most people you can’t help but detect others’ ambient free floating rage and anxiety. And then of course, you have to deal with people who use social media and that constant stream of information.

        I thought you’d tie all of this back to your favorite subjects of neoliberalism and collapsing nation states. When societies are in flux, people are anxious because they don’t know what to do and what their place is in the world.

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  3. Increasing and more-obvious societal inequality is the most obvious change. Inequality is higher than it’s been in 100 years, and it’s more obvious now with the internet, Facebook, and the like, so it matters to people far more.

    Bet that explains most of it.

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  4. Right. Inequality, climate change, and the Internet are huge changes. I think the Internet produces anxiety even if you are not on social media.

    Externally, in Louisiana, last 20 years: Hurricane Katrina, Bobby Jindal, BP oil spill, these are major disasters that deeply changed the state. Traumas really, and it feels as though everything is closing in: New Orleans is now a Disneyland, the Gulf is so polluted, the state government is so f—ed. It is the feeling that there is no future.

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      1. For me, since the 90s, I have had anxiety because I was doing what was recommended but not what I knew was right, or what really needed to be done. I wonder if this is the fractured ego. All the students have anxiety and I would too if I were in their situation, which due to high student teacher ratio, low resources and high cost is not at all like the situation in which I went to college.

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