Life’s a tragedy. It always surprises us, and eventually, we all die.
But tragedies don’t have to lead to catastrophes. A catastrophe is a shared emergency that overwhelms our interactions and narratives.
Lately, they’ve become a business model and a never-ending part of our days. If we live in a world driven by attention, catastrophization is a sure way to grab some. It’s a bright red button that causes forward motion to freeze up.
If it helped, it wouldn’t be a problem. If it helped, we could use our resources to make a difference. But it’s not designed to help, it’s designed to shift our focus and activate our emotions.
It might be the catastrophe of world events, or the political scrum or even an unhappy customer on Yelp.
For too long, people with power and privilege simply ignored things that mattered, and catastrophization is a reasonable response–until it begins to undermine the work we need to do. It quickly becomes a version of Pressfield’s resistance, a way to avoid leaning into important projects that might not work–because it’s safer to focus on a thing over there than it is to work on something right here.
And it’s exhausting. Catastrophe fatigue sets in, and we end up losing interest and drifting away, until the next emergency arrives.
Catastrophization ends up distracting us from the long-term systemic work we signed up to do. It’s a signal that we care about what’s happening right now, but it also keeps us from focusing on what’s going to happen soon.
The best way to care is to persist in bending the culture and our systems to improve things over time.