Updated: Nov 28, 2020
All-or-nothing thinking can leave you feeling like a victim of circumstance and cause emotional upheaval. If you’re feeling unusually depressed or anxious, it may be a matter of how you look at the world.
One day you think your marriage was made in heaven. The next you want to call a divorce lawyer. You start the week loving your job because you gave a successful presentation. On Friday, you’re debating whether or not you’re going to resign because you had an argument with your boss.
Therapists call it dichotomous or polarized thinking. It’s what happens when you take a specific event and turn it into a global generalization. It’s thinking that is strictly black and white; no room for all the glorious colors!
Learning to replace exaggerated thoughts with more realistic assessments will help you to deal with setbacks and feel more hopeful about the future.
Simple Steps to Overcome Polarized Thinking
When all or nothing thinking becomes chronic, it can have far reaching effects on your life. However, there are simple actions you can take each day to gradually achieve more moderation.
Try these techniques:
Change your vocabulary. Speaking in unconditional terms reinforces all-or-nothing thinking. Try replacing words like alwaysand everyonewith descriptions that are closer to the facts.
Take an inventory. Give yourself more credit if a single setback is blinding you to your overall track record. Remember the manythings you have already accomplished.
Accentuate the positive. Black and white thinking tends to be pessimistic. Take time to count your blessings and notice the things you like in yourself and others. Living in gratiutude simply means, taking the time to appreciate all the things!
Set realistic expectations. Create goals you can achieve instead of trying to be a superhero. Consider your abilities and resources.
Celebrate small victories.Take satisfaction in making progress. Cleaning out one closet is a step closer to putting your house in order.
Narrow your focus. Try changing your perspective about one area in your life, and the rest will most likely follow. You might want to concentrate on your relationships or your health.
Ask for feedback. If you have trouble recognizing when you’re exaggerating, ask friends and family for feedback. They may be able to see things more clearly than you do.
Advanced Steps to Overcome Polarized Thinking
It’s easy to become stuck when you engage in black or white thinking. You may need to take additional steps if you feel trapped in a cycle you want to break.
Follow these strategies for additional steps:
See things through. Do you abandon projects unless they deliver the exact results you were seeking? You’ll be happier and more productive if you can train yourself to be flexible and tolerate frustration. Try to identify the successful elements of any operation and learn from experience.
Take risks. All-or-nothing thinking saps your motivation when you believe that your efforts would be futile. Surprise yourself by seizing more opportunities and watching some of them pay off.
Meditate and reflect. If your way of thinking has been holding you back, you may need to contemplate how you see yourself and others. Figure out your personal priorities and values.
Make specific plans. To build a brighter future, you need a plan to follow. Once you have a list of positive changes you want to make, identify the obstacles you’ll face and what you’ll do to overcome them.
Seek counseling. All-or-nothing thinking can sometimes be traced back to childhood, so you may need help with sorting out the past and moving on. Give us a call today to help you sort-out the polarized thinking that is holding you captive.
When you recognize that all humans are a mixture of positive and negative qualities, you’ll be able to make more rational decisions. Free yourself from all-or-nothing thinking so you can enjoy more happiness and success!