Putting it in Perspective

This lesson teaches a way of dealing with something called ‘catastrophising’, or ‘worst case scenario thinking.’ Some students will really know what you are talking about, others will find it peculiar, because they tend not to catastrophise. The technique assumes that catastrophising is difficult to stop and that one solution is to go with it to it’s logical extreme, then imagine a best case scenario to produce enough positive emotion so that we can become a bit more rational and problem solve.

Putting it in Perspective: the skill.

  • Briefly discuss last session’s reflective task.
  • Give the students the following scenario; your House Master/Mistress or Head of Year asks you to see him/her in the study at 5pm. No explanation is given.
  • Ask the students to make a quick note of what is running through their heads and discuss (briefly).
  • Point out that sometimes our mind gets carried away and thinks the worst when we are faced with a challenge (e.g. when someone we love is 30 minutes late and they haven’t phoned). We need to calm ourselves to begin to deal with the situation: one technique is Putting It In Perspective (PIIP).
  • Go back to the HM scenario. Ask students to imagine the worst case scenario, slowly escalating using the question ‘what happened next?’ Get slowly worse, bit by bit. Do in pairs or as a class.
  • Next, ask students to imagine the best case scenario, again, bit by bit, in pairs or as a class.
  • Now ask students to imagine what the most likely outcome in this situation.
  • Now, ask students to plan what they would do when faced with that situation: what can they control and what can’t they control, what are they going to do and when?
  • Ask students to speculate on what the effect of doing this might be when faced with a difficult situation (hopefully they will say it calms you down to deal with it).
  • There is a nice example of catastrophisation and putting it in perspective in this video clip ‘the phonecall’ from The Wonder Years. Ask pupils what Kevin Arnold does with his Bs to be able to phone Lisa.

Time alone with your Bs.

  • Ask pupils to quietly, individually see if they can identify some beliefs which lead them either to experience strong emotions such as fear, anxiety, anger or sadness, which they don’t need to feel so intensely, or beliefs which cause them to say or do things they later regret.
  • Ask pupils to use evidence (that’s not completely true because…), alternatives (another way of seeing this is…) or optimism (I can control… or I can change…) to refine the beliefs. These are on a slide here.
  • Watch this clip of Chesley Sullenberger and ask pupils to analyse which resilience skills he uses.
  • Ask them to predict how the new way of thinking might affect their feelings and behaviour.

Prep: Practice managing difficult situations. by applying what has been learned so far in Well-being.