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Warped Thinking: It is or it isn't

In the previous post we discussed the idea of cognitive distortions or warped thinking. Anytime we approach a new situation, we are prone to view it through one of many warped thinking styles.  This sometimes leads to us getting less favorable outcomes.  By learning to recognize this warped thinking and implement ways to combat it, we are more likely to get the outcomes we desire.

Today's post is focused on the All or Nothing category of warped thinking, also known as Black or White Thinking. When someone engages in this sort of thinking, he or she views a situation as if there are only two possible outcomes and acts as if one of the two outcomes cannot be achieved, it's not worth doing or he or she is a failure.

An example of this style or warped thinking would be if you were working on a home improvement project like building a deck. You planned out how the deck would look and be built and have bought all of the necessary materials. Then you run into an unexpected problem – the deck will block access to the air conditioning unit. When you discover that you cannot finish your project the way you intended you abandon it completely because you believe that if you cannot finish the project the way you wanted to do it you have failed anyone and it's no use in trying to continue.

In reality, there are many ways to finish building the deck as there were many ideas before you settled on the one you chose. You could change the shape of the deck, add an access door, or build the deck smaller to accommodate the air conditioner. However, when you engage in All or Nothing thinking you give up any possibility of success.

This warped thinking style does not just apply to home improvement projects. All or Nothing Thinking can hurt us in relationships when we refuse to meet our partner or loved one halfway, at work when we cannot get past our feelings of failure when we cannot complete a project as intended, and with our own personal goals when they don't go as planned.

Being able to take a few moments to ride out the disappointment that your plans have not turned out like you thought they would is the first step to combating this warped thinking style. Take a deep breath. Tell yourself that everything is okay (because it is).

Next, think about alternatives. What are some other ways you can accomplish your goal? Can you build on what you've already done? Do you need to start from scratch? If you were starting from the beginning again, what others ways of reaching your goal might you have considered?

Talking through this process with an objective person can be of great assistance in looking at the situation from a different angle.

After you regroup, start your planning and doing again. After all, if you never try you can never reach your goal.

How has All or Nothing Thinking affected you in the past and how did you combat it?

Let us know in the comments.

Barbara ColemanComment