the seven words that will change every relationship

19th April 2019

So this week:

  • Our neighbours haven’t signed the Party Wall Agreement which we need to start our renovation. I’ve made a whole story up about why.
  • A dear friend-colleague is taken a courageous leap in her leadership work and I can feel her expansion (and I’ve decided she will probably grow right past me).
  • We haven’t seen Bohdi’s best mate Blue at the park for weeks {insert something terrible here}.
I am bloody brilliant at Awfulising.

Cognitive psychologist Dr. Albert Ellis who pioneered Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy in the ’50s, first coined ‘awfulising’ to describe how we escalate situations into the most negative possible conclusion, often with no evidence or validity.

Albert reckoned adversity alone doesn’t cause people to feel anxious or upset. Instead, we get the most worked up about potential negative consequences that haven’t actually happened yet.

Which is why I have created an entire scenario involving a tweedy Council official dramatically stopping work on our house just after the builders demolish the back wall.

See also: broken friendships and dead dogs.

I’m ACE at filling in the blanks.

I’ve found most of us are pretty skilled at awfulizing when we have partial information. We tend to fill up any gaps in information to make ourselves feel safer. Which is understandable.

But often, our awfulising is not benign.

The less aware we are of our awfulising, the easier it is to project our anxieties onto other people. We can respond to people based on lazy stereotypes and media-fed tropes.

We can become defended against a scenario that we’ve forgotten we made up and has not actually happened.

There are seven words that have helped me to snap out of my awfulising and have helped me to become more aware of my own assumptions and bias:

‘Here’s what I’m making up about that…’

These seven words have helped me to see where I am filling in the blanks with stories of my own making as if this was my Mastermind specialist subject.

I’m getting braver at saying this to people I love: ‘you know that text you sent / that conversation this morning, well here’s what I’m making up about that…’

It’s the most powerful air clearer I know.

It’s about owning my own assumptions, my own meaning-making. It allows the aforementioned loved person to know the crazy shit that goes on in my brain and to laugh, empathise and share their stuff with me.

Compassionately unpacking our meaning-making often takes support.

Our awfulising tendencies are often created during times of emotional intensity where we are least able to hold perspective around these stories.

In Your Self-belief Map, we spend time pulling apart the meaning-making that underpins your self-doubt.

I’ll show you a gentle practice to challenge the stories that keep you anxiously creating worst case scenarios in your mind.

Liberating yourself from self-doubt is life-changing work, I’d love to support you.

What stories are you making up?
Who are you responding to as if your assumptions are true?



Hello, I'm Sas Petherick. I'm a self-doubt researcher, coach and podcaster who helps thinking humans transcend self-doubt. If you'd like to receive these posts in your inbox please subscribe here (with bonus info and first notice of opportunities to work with me). PS: I totallyInstagram - join me there?


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