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Awfulizing my leopards

Posted in Uncategorized by Simon Bisson on September 2, 2006

I came across this neologism today (from Human Being Curious via Creating Passionate Users and ).

The human brain has a function built into it that’s helped us survive for many thousands of years, and unfortunately, it’s also a function that tends to resist trying new things as well. Your brain tends to make up, and live out worst case scenarios before trying something new, to see what might happen if you were to try this new thing. It’s what’s known as awfulizing. When faced with something that’s different from what we’re used to, our brain awfulizes all of the terrible things that may become of this new situation, and in many cases, believes what it makes up to be true, then responds to what it makes up, as opposed to what is known as objective reality. Let me give you two examples. These examples are quite different, and at the same time, the brain tends to come to the same conclusion for both of these situations.

It made a lot of sense. It’s something I do a lot, rolling scenarios over and over and trying to work out what the worst possible thing that could happen would be. When faced with a decision, and something new, I’m still back on those long ago African plains, trying to avoid the hungry leopards.

Now I have a name for it, it could be easier to deal with.

And of course, I should still be able to avoid my metaphorical night-time leopards.

And of course, Human Being Curious becomes another candidate for the ever-growing blogroll


6 Responses to 'Awfulizing my leopards'

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  1. camies said,

    But sometimes people preload you with the awfulizing from the start.
    Today: “Put on your gear and step into the pool.”
    No problem, I say. But then:
    “If you do not do this correctly your air tank will hit you in the back of the head and you will possibly die.”
    Well, I did not want to hear this. I am more than somewhat put off by this and freeze poolside once before I am actually able to step in quite correctly and without problem.
    External awfulising is bad and wrong. Possibly.

  2. madcatwoman said,

    I’ve always called it “worst-caseing”. I have had to talk to myself sternly on many occasions in the past just to be able to proceed with (sometimes) quite ordinary things.

  3. marypcb said,

    what I like so much is the tone. it’s formal, technical language – and then suddenly there’s this near-ludicrous term that’s accurate but funny too. I saw a rather tacky TV therapist use the technique of helping phobics ridicule their inner voice to help it be less dominating and I think giving this a name that makes you smile gives you another tool to stop yourself being swept away.

  4. spride said,

    Called catastrophizing in therapy, notably CBT.

  5. anonymous said,

    Hi. Do you know about “ English teacher in Shanghai”
    There is have a blog called Sex in Shanghai in which a Western guy tells about all his exploits with Chinese women here in Shanghai. (That blog is still #1 on the “hottest blogs” list on the CBL, but it now seems to be inaccessible.) Since then, the Chinese have found out about the blog, and they are (understandably) pissed.

    Bristol Chinese Pain relief Acupuncture

  6. whotheheckami said,

    SO I suppose that makes offal-izing worrying about falling into the tank of guts at the abbatoir? ;@)

    I’ll get my coat

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