Despite how great food at Chick-fil-A is, there is a significant correlation between consuming chicken and oil being imported to the U.S. Does this mean anything? Probably not.
If you have ever dug into statistics- in the news, in school, or even through your own research- you may have learned an important principle: “Correlation does not equal causation;” in other words, just because two things are associated doesn’t mean they are related to each other. I discovered a fun little website that features “Spurious Correlations.” Check out the connection between chicken and crude oil:
So there you have it, ladies and gentlemen. Eat Mor Chikin, or don’t. Obviously, it’s probably ridiculous to put any significance on this. Frankly, you and I may hold some correlations that are just as absurd. Here’s an example of one I did today.
I woke up with the same irritation in my left eye that I had from my contacts last night. My thoughts jumped to a torn cornea, eye irritation, my brand new 1 year supply of expensive contacts being a bad choice, to some generalized unknown disease. I don’t have Health Anxiety Disorder (the disorder formerly known as hypochondriasis), but my very human brain seems to generate all sorts of interesting thoughts and hypotheses. As of this writing, they’re all correlations I’VE come up with in my “I clearly know more than an eye doctor” experience.
What I’m practicing at this moment is something I teach my clients: Observe. Pause. Engage in what you know to be good and meaningful in the moment. Face obsessional trash talk. Restructure actual harmful beliefs that are believed to be true. And wait. Wait. WAIT. Sit with it in absence of an emergency or clear decision that must be made (or disordered expectation that it should be clear and you must act now).
Stepping away from the heat of the moment, I have more clarity (as we all gain perspective when we’re not entrenched in strong emotions about a topic). It’s likely just some irritation. But maybe not. I’ll sit with it longer. I’ll work hard in delivering therapy today. I will stop ruminating on it. I can face this. I’ll use some eye drops. I can tolerate this distress. I’ll likely learn this is nothing big, but even if I don’t, I bet I can learn what to do and face it regardless.
These are core components of the CBT treatment of Anxiety and Fear:
- Mindfully catch it
- Observe it
- Face it
- Sit with it without reacting unless a reaction is called for
- Feel it, but don’t magnify it
- Restructure it (if needed)
- Focus on what can be done and is valuable in the moment, then do that
- Learn from it in time
- Adjust behavior where necessary
- Adjust beliefs where necessary
So if you correlate chicken with oil imports or discomfort with disease, you might just give CBT a try so you can live a little more in the truth of reality. You might just find some more clarity, less anxiety, and/or you can handle it. I have.
[Post update 4 days later: turned out I had a stray eyelash that had lodged itself in one the pores at the bottom of my eye. Once removed, it was fine! If I had rubbed my eyes trying to make it go away out of fear, it would have made it worse- and increased the risk of harm to my eye. If I resolutely minimized it and called it ‘nothing’, I wouldn’t have calmly scheduled an eye doctor appointment where the lash was easily plucked out.]So there you have it, ladies and gentlemen. Eat Mor Chikin, or don’t. Obviously, it’s probably ridiculous to put any significance on this. Frankly, you and I may hold some correlations that are just as absurd. I did today.