How to Bypass Pessimism’s “Thought Filter”

How to Bypass Pessimism’s “Thought Filter”

When something goes wrong and you feel your world is falling apart, try to determine if negative “thought filters” are causing more pain—and trouble!

Catastrophic Thinking

Has this ever happened to you?

You receive a little bit of bad news and suddenly feel like your world is falling to pieces?

This was me yesterday!

For the past several months, I’ve been working on an online stress training program I’m getting ready to release publicly. I’d arranged for some people to help me make sure everything in it is working by using it.

I received two emails saying the video was not loading correctly.

All of a sudden, I got an instant headache and felt sick to my stomach. I must have looked awful because a girlfriend asked me if I was okay.

I wasn’t….

So, I decided to get out and go for a walk to help clear my brain. That’s when I realized what had happened.

Defense Mechanisms—Automatic Negative Thoughts

They’re called many different things: defense mechanisms, ANTs (automatic negative thoughts), ego filters …

I like to keep it simple and refer to them as “thought filters,” which kind of work like glasses—they take input and automatically adjust it.

The problem with these “thought filters” is that they are all negatively focused and usually create more pain and cause more trouble.

The filter my brain used: Catastrophizing. This is when the brain automatically goes to the WORST POSSIBLE OUTCOME.

In my case it was, The website doesn’t work. Even after all that work I did to make sure this didn’t happen.

Yup! That was the thought that instantaneously showed up! In fact, it all happened so fast that it took me a minute to catch up with what was happening—all I knew was I suddenly didnt feel very well!


How to Handle Negative Thought Filters

Now, there are some experts who believe it’s possible to eliminate these filters. I disagree.

While I believe that we CAN do the internal work and minimize the likelihood they show up, I don’t believe we can get rid of them completely.

The LifeTOOL I’ve always taught for handling them is:

  1. Whenever you have a STRONG emotional response—be aware these filters are operating.
  2. Takes steps to check the reality they’re trying to convince you of.

Applied to my recent situation:

  1. Instead of reacting immediately to my response, I took a walk, was able to separate myself from the situation, and allowed myself to become aware of what was happening.
  2. I asked myself: Is it possible the problem is something else, like their browser or internet connection? (I had checked the videos three times before, and they had worked each time!)

Turns out, when they switched to a different internet browser, the videos worked!

Do you have a time when “catastrophizing” has shown up in your life? Let me know in the comments.


About Carol Rickard, LCSW

Carol Rickard is stress & wellness expert who teaches people how to take control of anxiety and stress in as little as 60 seconds using a groundbreaking system she developed during her 30 years of clinical practice. She's been a featured expert in media including Readers Digest, Woman's World Magazine, and Dr. Oz's The Good Life. Carol has trained organizations such as NJ State Police, Philadelphia International Airport, Princeton University, Fox Chase Cancer Center, and US Department of Energy. Want To Cut Anxiety & Stress In 1/2? Go to -

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