Tuesday, September 25, 2007

All or Nothing Thinking

There's another thing that was really helpful that I learned in therapy. That was a lesson about "all or nothing thinking." At first I didn't even realize what this was. I was so used to engaging in it, I had no idea how bad it made me feel.

For anyone who doesn't know the term, "all or nothing thinking" is the practice of applying one small thing to everything in your life and thus turning it into a big thing. For example, if you do bad on a test, instead of saying you did bad on a test and will need to study harder , you say you're stupid implying you can't do better. Or a check bounces or you get an unexpected bill and you're sick and tired of always being broke. The keyword being always. Because it's really only an isolated incident but it's been turned into a major crisis.

Such thinking makes us feel bad about ourselves. We feel inadequate because we don't seem to be able to control our lives. When in actuality it is our thinking that is at fault.

It took me a while to understand that just because I was having a bad day didn't mean that my life sucked! It was possible to have a bad day followed by a good day if I didn't set myself up to have another bad day.

I can remember not wanting to get out of bed some days because I was so convinced that life was going to be awful yet another day. It didn't occur to me that I was feeling bad because I was telling myself to feel bad. As long as my perspective was that my life sucked, I was feeling pretty miserable.

When I allowed myself to diffuse the all or nothing thinking, I made huge gains in my recovery process. I didn't feel so powerless. The world was definitely more manageable.

Today when life bumps into me, I don't feel like I'm a failure. I know I just need to adjust for the latest bump but I don't have to stop living all together.

I have a friend who has a big dream. She recently thought that she was making one giant step forward in making this dream a reality. However, something happened and that giant step collapsed. Now she's thinking her dream is over. That is all or nothing thinking.

The dream isn't over, It's right where it was a week ago. The only difference is the thing that was supposed to speed it up didn't happen. It's still possible to make it to her destination just without the fast track that fell through. I quickly pointed out to her, she still has the same things going for her that she had before, all she has to do is work at it.

Being able to step back and diffuse all of nothing thinking can be the difference between feeling powerless and feeling in charge. Which one would you rather feel? For me, there's no question, I'm much happier now that I have stepped up and taken over the control of my life.

1 comment:

Frazzled Farm Wife said...

This reminds me of the phrase " is the cup is 1/2 full or 1/2 empty".