All or Nothing Thinking

all or nothing thinking

 

Another thought pattern that leads to anxiety (yes, there are many) is All or Nothing Thinking.

This is the type of thought pattern that leads us to label something is either really great, or just a total mess. In that way it is similar to perfectionism, but all or nothing thinking has a much broader scope.

In addition to leading me to have high expectations, all or nothing thinking also makes me very impatient. When I expect something to happen, I expect it immediately, or else I doubt it will happen at all.

This can be really frustrating to people when they are healing from anxiety and depression as they really want to get better, and they want to get better RIGHT NOW. It can be hard for us to see the small steps of progress along the way.

Moreover, if we are healing in a two steps forward, one step back way that many of us do, we can view that one step back as a chutes and ladders type slide all the way back to where we started instead of one move back on the game board.

When my husband explains all or nothing thinking to people, he often draws a little line graph and label it from one to ten.

When he hears someone talking about something using the language “always” or “never” or describes something as awful or a “total failure”, he asks them to chart how bad it was on the 1-10 scale.  Usually we are not at zero. Oftentimes we have made it all the way to a six or seven in a certain area when we used to be at a 2.  By looking at our struggles incrementally, we can see that we are making progress. Also, we can see that even our setbacks are not as dramatic as we feel them to be.

This is definitely an area that I am still progressing in. It takes a lot of practice to move from a mindset where things are just “good” and “bad” to a multiple layered approach.

However, in doing so I find that life is often better than I had initially viewed it (not perfect=bad) and my struggles and setbacks were not as bad as they might have seemed.

How do you struggle with all or nothing thinking? What helps you see the middle ground?

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