What Mice and PEACE have to do with Catastrophisation
I was chatting with my daughter in the kitchen and a mouse ran across the floor and scampered under a cupboard. I squealed and jumped onto the bench. Zoë was puzzled at my reaction: “What will that tiny mouse do to you?” She laughed. The thing about fear is that we don’t rationalise it. We don’t usually stop and work our way through a process to untangle it. I know that my reaction had something to do with years of conditioning about rodents and disease and poverty. They move pretty fast too, so there’s probably a primal reaction to that. I don’t actually know.
What I was doing in my fright was unconsciously catastrophising. This is a mental habit that often happens with people living with chronic pain. They will feel a twinge or have a flare up and immediately worry. They jump to the worst possible scenarios and their consequent actions are driven by fear. There’s a psychological state called pronoia which is the opposite of paranoia. It’s the belief that everything is going to work out well because the universe just makes it that way. People living with chronic pain don’t have this outlook on life for obvious reasons.
But there is a mental process that you can walk yourself through when faced with a big worry about your health. The acronym is PEACE.
Let’s do it using my fear of mice - which I now realise is actually a fear of rats
P in the past when we have had mice, we very quickly got mouse traps and put down bait and within a few weeks they were gone.
E there is no evidence that our house will become infested or that the mouse problem will become a rat problem
A the alternate explanation for the presence of the mouse is that the weather is cold; and the mice are coming inside for warmth; and they are very small; and sweet and harmless; and will not come near me because I am big and scary.
C the chance that our house will become overrun with mice - or rats - is very slim.
E if I were to empathise with a friend who had mice, I would tell them that having mice is a common occurrence in London with 80% of all homes experiencing a mouse problem at some point. I would also tell them that a mouse is not a rat.
So, lovely person. I encourage you to try working through PEACE the next time you are feeling at war with your worries. I feel better about mice now too.