Let me guess, you think America is going to hell in a hand basket if Hillary or Trump gets elected.
Where you stand on Trump decides where you stand on that question. Is Trump the worst, or is Hillary? Does America stand a chance of surviving with either of them president?
I’ll give you a hint.
It has survived the Obama, Bush, and Clinton administrations so far, each of which were considered iterations of “the worst possible situation for America.
It’ll survive because this isn’t the end of the country (or of the world). This extremely negative view of what’ll happen once “the bad guy” gets elected is (mostly) in your head.
It’s a cognitive distortion that can wreak havoc not only on your political mindset, but on the mindset of others (including their view of you). It can push people away, pander to base fears, and distract you from the real issues at hand.
Let Me Introduce You to Fortune Telling
A subset of the Jumping to Conclusions cognitive distortion, Fortune Telling is when you make a negative assumption about an event, convincing yourself of the “prediction” without any facts. Once you believe your own prediction you become inflexible, self-deprecating, and fearful depending on the situation.
Fortune telling is an extreme version of our natural ability to predict what will happen after an action is taken. For instance, you might know that touching an open flame will burn you because of a past childhood experience (or a friend’s dumb mistake). You know that by dropping a ball it’ll hit the floor in a certain amount of time. These are simple examples of human “prediction,” but you get the point.
The problem with fortune telling is that it takes our natural prediction abilities and adds some good ole fashioned fear and self-doubt. In fact, fortune telling is so dangerous it’s been known to lead to depression and anxiety.
Why’s it so Easy to Fall into?
I believe it’s the easiest to fall into when the topic is political. All it takes is a combination of a few beliefs and mindsets…
- “Everything is one step away from going to hell”
- “We’re fighting for the survival of [blank]”
- Thinking in dichotomies (i.e. “It’s us against them”, “either the nation is saved or its destroyed”)
- Putting too much credit on inconsequential factors, that we prioritize needlessly
Fortune telling also feeds off your insecurities, fears, and biases. Because of this, it makes it extremely easy to fall into, and hard to get out of.
Fighting fear-based biases is nasty. And fortune telling implants irrational outcomes in your mind with those fears.
How to moderate Fortune Telling
There’s a few ways you can moderate, reduce, and even replace the effects of fortune telling.
The most effective way to deal with it is to recognize and replace it.
“So what do you do when you notice yourself, a family member or your child fortune telling? First off we have to recognize it (the irrational reaction and the stressful situation that led to it) and then we want to replace it (with a fair and realistic and rational thought). A global replacement thought might be: “I don’t know what the future will bring but I am managing right now.” [This replacement] Anchors us in the present, and reminds us of the truth.” [emphasis added]
Other helpful things to consider when dealing with fortune telling (or any assumptions) include…
- What is the evidence for and against your prediction?
- What’s the function of your worry (what are the costs of your predication and how do they affect you)?
- What’s your track record for making similar predictions?
- How difficult would it be for your predicted outcome to occur?
- Are there equally plausible possible outcomes?
- Can you explain in detail to someone why your prediction is right?
“The human brain is a complex organ with the wonderful power of enabling man to find reasons for continuing to believe whatever it is that he wants to believe.” ― Voltaire
Fortune telling relies on your own biases and fears. Which means, the key to overcoming and derailing it is to continuously analyze your mental processes. And as our good friend Voltaire said above, your own mental process is the best at convincing you you’re right.
The nation won’t devolve into a socialist dystopia just because Hillary was elected. It didn’t under Obama, not even close.
Make sure not to stretch the factors of your worriment. Presidents only have so much influence over government, much less society. Governments and their officials aren’t as smart as your assumptions require. Foreign nations aren’t as interested in conquest as you fear. And the days of the Cold War are over.