Twisted Thinking Part 3: Over-Generalization

“Take it as it comes. Believe that you can be okay with uncertainty and surprises. Let experiences/feelings come and go. Be in the moment and focus your will power where your power truly lies. Thank your brain for trying. Do not give up dreaming what can be. Just because it has not been, does not mean it cannot be.”

Over-generalization

This may sound kind of similar to All-or-Nothing thinking. But the difference is that over-generalization has to do with drawing irrational conclusions about patterns in your life over a period of time. “Always” or “never” are words that signal to you that you may be over-generalizing. This always happens. I’ll never be able to do this. I’ll never have that opportunity. I always get dumped. I always screw up relationships. I always fail at ______. I’ll never get this right. It could stem from our interpretation of a single event, but then we make it mean there is an unavoidable pattern. If it is multiple events then it seems easier (for some reason) to convince yourself that the “evidence” speaks for itself and it’s simply “true.” But it is still an irrational thought that causes unnecessary pain that does not serve you. You’re using irrational conclusions about the past to predict the future. It’s like your brain is trying to explain things to you. Thanks brain??

I’ll Feel Bad Now so I don’t Get Surprised Later

Our brains are always trying to problem-solve for us – and that is not an over-generalization! Maybe because uncertainty can be uncomfortable and if we feel like we can predict it it’s more comfortable to us. Even if we are predicting negative things that cause us to feel bad. It’s as though we’d rather not be surprised with negative experiences so we just assume it’ll be negative up front, thus, causing a negative experience right now. But at least we’re not surprised this way. At least we don’t rock the boat too much! Ironically, by trying to protect us from negative experiences, our brains create even more (in total) unnecessary negative experiences for us. That is twisted thinking for you! But now you’re catching on to it so watch out thinking errors!

My Versions of Over-generalization

Use Past to Predict Future

I’ll try to use the past to predict the future. But this is a terrible indicator. If I would have bought into this when learning to play basketball when I was a kid, I would have told myself I’ve never thrown a ball through a hoop before so I probably won’t ever be able to. And I would have given up, missing out on hours/years of enjoyment and skill development. My depression and anxiety will never get better. I’ll never find a job that I love. If I continued to buy into these thoughts I would have never found healing and felt as good as I do now. And I would have never found this job that I love. Our results are evidence of our thinking and that is why we need to identify these thinking errors when they arise.

Addiction

Oh man this one can destroy you in addiction (I realize that was a thinking error just then but I said it for emphasis). I’ll never get over this. I have failed so many times despite all the will power I can muster. Talk about a self-defeating cycle! Thinking I’ll never get over this causes feelings of hopelessness in you that add on to the already-present, overwhelming emotions that are driving your compulsive behavior and overpowering your willpower. Until I learned where my power is in addiction recovery, I fell into this pattern in my mind regularly. My power is not in changing my compulsive behavior directly but in changing the underlying thinking. And “true connection” with self, others, and God are absolutely essential to succeed in recovery.

Side Affects

Over-Generalization twists your mind. It leads to feeling hopeless, discouraged, and frustrated. This can not only freeze you in your tracks but cause you to step backwards. This thinking error uses your imagination against you and limits your possibilities. Over-Generalization is dangerous and threatens our mental health and overall well-being.

Antidote

Mindfulness. Take it as it comes. Believe that you can be okay with uncertainty and surprises. Let experiences/feelings come and go. Be in the moment and focus your will power where your power truly lies. Thank your brain for trying. Do not give up dreaming what can be. Just because it has not been, does not mean it cannot be. Watching my kids learn to ride bikes (two-wheelers) this last year was inspiring and joyful. Don’t let yourself lose the ability to believe in what can be as hard as you can, getting up each time you fall down, until you get the results you want.

Some Amazing Thoughts to Think

  • I can manage any thought, feeling, or body sensation that comes my way.
  • I am fulfilling my purpose as a human.
  • I have always been enough and always will be enough.
  • Self-doubt means it’s worth doing and I’m moving toward my purpose as a human.
  • It went just as it was supposed to and I learned from it.
  • I am figuring out how to make my goals happen.
  • Love is always an option.
  • There’s nothing you truly want that you can’t have.
  • We can do hard things.
  • Everything you do is a choice.
  • What you look for, you will find.

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Please share your experiences with over-generalization. Make comments. Let’s get a discussion going.

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1 thought on “Twisted Thinking Part 3: Over-Generalization

  1. Well said–powerful.

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