Self-Compassion For Impending Doom Syndrome

Why Do These Things Keep Happening?

Self-Compassion is not only good for recognizing patterns.  It is also good for interrupting them, when necessary.  Not too long ago, I saw a man, who thought himself similar to the Biblical character known as Job.  He believed that he was congenitally sentenced to bad luck.  From missed appointments, to condiment disasters during lunch, to spilled drinks during client meetings, to pant zippers that broke without warning.  He wondered if we could not design a bubble for his body, as he also had a habit of walking into things that left marks, and in one case a scar.  He ended every story with a simple question, “Why do these things keep happening?”

Doom Syndrome

The problem with getting to the bottom of this query is that, like most people, he was so upset about each disappointment or embarrassment that he would perseverate on those two feelings, and his fear of impending doom.  So, he was surprised, when I diagnosed him with “impending doom syndrome,” but after lashing out, and then breaking down, something funny happened.  He accepted it. 

Suddenly, he felt better, and this wave of feeling grounded gave him the space to provide some insight into his issues.  He noticed that these incidents were often preceded by two things: lack of sleep, and anxiety about something else.  I asked him if he did not come by this insomnia and anxiety naturally, and he agreed that he had.  Then, I asked him what he could do to be kind enough to himself to let go of his anxiety, and give himself some time during the day to recover or compensate for this sleep loss.  He found 10 minutes of uninterrupted time during his day in which he could use a sleep timer for self-compassion meditation just in case he drifted off.

Treating Doom

Before he left, I let him know that doom syndrome was not actually a real diagnosis, but rather an opportunity for him to feel validated about his concerns and perspective.  He thanked me, both for letting him know that he did not have such a dubious sounding diagnosis, but also for giving him the opportunity for once in his life to feel like his concerns were not those of a crazy person.  We looked at how this validation had opened up the space for him to see what was contributing to this patterns of issues, and the great insight and wisdom that he was able to draw from himself. 

We waited a week to observe the results, and as you may have guessed, they were nothing short of remarkable.  Not because self-compassion therapy is magical, but because this man was able to acknowledge and validate his suffering, as well as respond to it with kindness instead of criticism, shame, and fear.  Three out of his five tries that week, he feel asleep during the meditation, but woke up feeling rested, and oddly happy.  The other two times, he felt like the volume was turned down a little bit on his worries, and that he was empowered in way he had not felt in a long time.

Using Doom Syndrome And Self-Compassion To End Your Pattern Of Calamity

How many of us feel like Job after a week of endless conundrums?  They make us feel vulnerable, inadequate, and sometimes not very smart.  We have a tendency to catastrophize these things not because we mean ourselves harm, but because we want so much to be successful.  Take some time to acknowledge your worry, give yourself the doom diagnosis, and permission to validate your experience and concerns.  Then, think of what might be contributing to your troubles, and come up with a plan to bring compassion and kindness to your experience.  At this point, you can let do of the doom diagnosis go.  It has served its purpose.

365 Days Of Self-Compassion.  Day 226.  In The Books.