Cognitive Distortion #2 – Overgeneralization

You couldn’t figure out long division in school, so to this day, you say with a joking smile, “I’m bad at math,!”  “I’m don’t make friends easily,” you think after being ignored when you tried to introduce yourself at a company party.  “I’m a bad mother,” thinks a women when her child throws a tantrum on the grocery store floor.  “I can’t keep a job,” says the teenager after being fired from his first job.

How about, “This child was easy to potty train, so all my children will be easy to potty train.”  Hah!  There is an obvious flaw in taking an isolated case and applying it to everything else.

These are overgeneralizations, and they are a very self-destructive thought pattern.  Every failure or frustration multiplies and contaminates not only today, but your entire future.

Even worse, many people have these thoughts constantly running in the background like a nagging commentator mentioning their every flaw.  Which leads into another great way to combat distorted thinking.

If the list making was not your thing, you can try the clicker method.  Get a cheap golf clicker at a sports store which can also be called a counter or tally machine.  Basically, you push a button, and the display number increases by one.  They are used to count golf strokes, or people coming into an event, etc.

Carry it in your pocket, and each time you have a distorted thought, click away.  At the end of the day, write the number down.  The cool thing is, the numbers should go up for a little while, because you are learning to recognize them, and letting fewer and fewer slip by unnoticed.  Then, the simple act of counting the thoughts will cause them to level off and finally decrease. 

Seriously, say you had a nervous twitch that caused your arm to jerk up and hit the back of your head.  You’d been doing it for so long, you really didn’t notice the arm jerking, just that you had constant headaches.  After taking multiple medications and explaining to a counselor the tragedies of your youth, you still don’t feel better.  Finally, someone explains what to watch for, and you start counting how many times your arm is twitching.  Some slip by, because this is a long engrained habit.  But eventually, you notice each one.  And who, once they notice their own arm hitting them in the head, is going to let that continue?  The act of recognizing and counting will decrease the number of distorted thoughts.  What a great concept.

So, now you are up to two coginitive distortions:  All-or-nothing thinking and overgeneralization. 

And two techniques:  Writing down the thoughts, identifying and responding, and the clicker count.

Try one today.


P.S.  For reference, see the wikipedia article or the book:


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