small disasters

Amongst all the time spent on introspection and analysing my own thoughts, I’ve noticed that I have this weird tendency to kind of randomly – and unintentionally – imagine small disasters. But then I thought, surely there’s nothing so weird that I can’t find other people somewhere in this big, wide world, who also experience the same thoughts. (Note how I’m saying “experience” the thoughts, since it’s not really a conscious thing, but more like something that just occurs.)

Ok, let me explain a bit. One of the more common scenarios in which this happens is in the simple, everyday act of drinking a glass of water. I will pick up said glass of water, and then, as I’m raising it to my lips to take a sip, my brain kind of just says to me, “Hey, imagine what would happen if we somehow lost grip of this cup, and it fell to the floor and shattered, and the water spilt everywhere.” And in that split second, I kind of visualise it happening, even though I know that it is very unlikely to happen (based on past experience of being able to successfully and uneventfully drink water from a glass).  

To be fair, this thought usually only happens when I actually don’t have a very good grip on the glass, or I’m standing on some really hard flooring (e.g. tiles, concrete, etc), so the situation is kind of inviting this speculation. But I must stress that I don’t have these thoughts every time that I drink water, or even every time that I’m in a situation conducive to having these kinds of speculations. But it has happened often enough for me to notice a rough pattern.

Maybe it’s carried over from this coping mechanism I think I developed when I was a kid (I say “I think I developed” because I’m not 100% sure that I’m recalling these memories correctly, and maybe I didn’t actually cope quite as well as I thought I did). Basically, I was pretty quick-tempered when I was little (as most kids are), but I recognised this as bad and hurtful; so instead of throwing tantrums and getting angry, I would sometimes just imagine being in a shop that sold lots of glass things, and just smashing everything up with a baseball bat.

And then this has created a subconscious appeal for smashing glass…? I don’t know – I’m not a psychologist.

Side note: I must’ve been a pretty insightful kid because apparently “rage rooms” are a big thing now. Well, I don’t know about “big”, but they are a thing. When a friend told me about them a while back, I was surprised it wasn’t always a thing. I just makes so much sense. Well, ok, the environmentally-conscious part of me feels like it’s pointlessly destructive and wasteful, but surely you can’t deny the therapeutic benefits of smashing things.

The “dropped glass” scenario is probably the most common “small disaster” that randomly comes to mind. Another one I caught myself imagining just the other day involved a drinking fountain/bubbler. I was just walking past one at the train station, and when I glanced at it, this image of it spontaneously spurting water everywhere popped into my mind, and I quickly thought of how I would protect the book I was holding. But I didn’t flinch or change the direction I was walking in, or even change how I was holding the book. The thought kind of just came and went.

Other “small disasters” are probably not actually that small… like standing at the side of the road, waiting to cross, and thinking about how easy it would be for that approaching car to swerve toward me… Don’t get me wrong here – I don’t want to die or go to hospital or whatever. I will actually usually think about where I would run if the car did swerve toward me (for some unknown reason), so, if anything, it’s totally about survivalism. That should be reassuring, right?

On a similar note, I also sometimes randomly imagine bridges collapsing. I walk under bridges almost every day, getting to and from my local bus stop, but I’ll have this thought maybe once in a blue moon when I’m not sufficiently distracted with other thoughts. Actually, if I’m passing under a traffic bridge, I’m more likely to wonder what would happen if a car lost control and drove off the bridge – not necessarily landing anywhere near me, but just what if someone did drive off the bridge?

Well, this is interesting. I’m actually weirding myself out a bit now.

But what I really wanted to ask, more so than whether or not anyone else has these “small disaster” thoughts, is whether there’s a term to describe this pattern of thinking. It’s kind of like “worst case scenario” thinking, but surely someone has given it a more technical term (?) Actually, I suppose it’s kind of like an insouciant anxiety – a wonderfully paradoxical frame of mind, whereby you’re anxious about the possibility of something bad happening, but you also don’t really care that much because the rational part of you knows that it’s highly improbable. Yeah, that could be a thing…

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5 thoughts on “small disasters

  1. Whenever I’m near the edge of something (like a bridge or a balcony) and I’m holding something I always imaging dropping it over. It’s usually not very likely that I’ll drop it, and I certainly don’t want to drop it (often it’s my phone or my keys), but the image pops into my head anyway. Similar thing maybe?

  2. I’m not certain, but I think those may be called “intrusive thoughts.” They’re nothing to worry about unless they interfere with your life in some way. Since it seems that your rational thoughts easily override these unbidden imaginings, they’re not a problem – just an interesting quirk.

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