Untwist Your Thinking – Overgeneralization

As we look at the second of Dr. David D. Burns cognitive distortions that create our anxiety and depression that can come from bullying or CPTSD, it’s important to recognize that some people have a few and some all of these distortions. The point is that even one of them can cause a world of misery for someone going through them.

The second distortion that many people under stress, anxiety or depression might deal with is Overgeneralization.

Debbie DownerOvergeneralization refers to the idea that you view a negative event as a never-ending pattern of defeat. Many people with perfection problems (ie – always think they have to be perfect) will deal with this overgeneralization. Concepts such as feeling defeated each day and simply making your life into one big disaster. When you use words such as “always”, for example, “I always screw things up” or “never”, such as the Charlie Brown, “I never get to kick the ball” or “I never get asked to parties”, that is overgeneralizing things.

Do you truly always do these things or never do these things? Doubtful right, but at that moment and at this time, that might be how you are thinking. Dr. Burns uses the example of a depressed person that becomes terribly upset when they notice bird poop on their car. They say “birds are always crapping on my car”. Really? Always? Hopefully they have a white car so it doesn’t show up.

All kidding aside, it certainly isn’t always. There was a great skit on Saturday Night Live some years ago called Debbie Downer. Anything someone else would say, Debbie would have some form of negative thought. You can see the issue, in that no one wants to hang around with someone who is constantly overgeneralizing things all the time.

The problem with Overgeneralization is that it becomes habitual once you do it enough and it is hard to stop. Trust me, I know this firsthand as I was and sometimes still do overgeneralize things. I know it is quite annoying to my family members. So as you ponder untwisting this thinking, think about how you might do this and can you put on those rose colored glasses sometimes.

One technique I have found to battle my own overgeneralization is to keep a “Gratefulness Journal”. I have to write three things daily that I am grateful for, working to find the good in each day, even through a cloud of bad. It will help untwist that thinking that Overgeneralizing does. Be concious of not using the words “always” and “never” when referring to your life. It is a lot of work, but stopping that and finding tools that bring gratefulness in for each day help combat this twisted thinking.

Alan Eisenberg’s new book about the long-term effects of bullying and his personal experiences, “A Ladder In The Dark”, is now available through Amazon and other fine book retail outlets.

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About Alan Eisenberg

Alan Eisenberg is a Certified Life Coach, Bullying Recovery activist and author of "A Ladder In The Dark: My journey from bullying to self-acceptance" and "Crossing the Line". He has been writing and speaking to various audiences about the issue of C-PTSD and Bullying Recovery. Mr. Eisenberg has been featured on several print, radio shows and podcasts on this issue, including NPR and in the Boston Globe. He is currently working toward his Master's Degree in Mental Health Counseling.
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