I’ve started several different blog posts today, unsure about what topic I wanted to pursue. I think this topic might be “it”, though. That is, I think this post is going to make it to “The Show” today, rather than being delegated to the Farm Team — the Drafts bin.
This Post with Good Prospects has to do with another cognitive distortion, another “psychological epidemic” of unhelpful thinking.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy calls this distortion “All-or-Nothing Thinking” (or “Black-and-White Thinking”)
Here’s a description, from a hand-out I use on cognitive distortions:
All-or-Nothing Thinking (also known as “Black-and-White Thinking”)
With this distortion, things seem either all good or all bad, people are either perfect or failures, something new will either fix everything or be worthless. There is no middle ground; we place people and situations in “either/or” categories, with no shades of gray, or allowing for complexities. Watch out for absolute words like “always”, “never,” “totally,” etc. as indications of this kind of distortion.
Boy, a lot of people have a reaction when THIS ONE comes up. As a matter of fact, people often say this (all-or-nothing) response:
I do that ALL THE TIME.
No, they don’t. They have other types of thoughts, too. It just SEEMS like it’s all the time. And there’s the basis of All-or-Nothing thinking.
There are shades of gray, even when we are only noticing the black and white.
The reason that All-or-Nothing thinking became The Alpha Topic today is this: I realized that All-or-Nothing thinking was the subtext of every other topic I was considering. One of those other topics was Fears about Fragility — how we can worry about our own fragility, other people’s fragility, and the fragility of connections with others — and how this affects how we are with others. And I realized there was some Black-and-White thinking involved there, too. I realized this had to do with All-or-Nothing thinking about people and connections — that they are either Fragile OR Resilient, not allowing for variations and shades of gray.
Hmmmm. I’ll tell you what I’m wondering right now, dear reader.
I’m wondering if I’m being confusing. I’m wondering if I’ve lost you.
Hey! That relates to both topics, I think — black-and-white thinking and fears about the fragility of connection.
Now that I’ve noticed that, I’m going to try to challenge some possible distortions. Want to come along?
Okay, so maybe my writing DID get more confusing above. That doesn’t mean there’s an All-or-Nothing switch, changing this post from Coherent to Incoherent.
Or from Useful to Useless. There are degrees of usefulness, aren’t there? This post — and every other blog post in the Great Blogosphere — is neither Completely Useful nor Completely Useless. Different readers will take different things away, from whatever they read.
Communication, in general, is not All-or-Nothing. No matter what the form of communication — in blogs, in person, in writing, in speech — there’s no perfect communication of meaning. (In order to attain that, we’d all have to be mind-readers.) There are so many shades of gray there — so many shifting variations and levels of understanding and being understood.
And if I did “lose” you, dear reader, that was — most likely — momentarily. Connections — of understanding, between people — don’t have to be perfect. There’s room for variation, for shifting degrees of engagement and disengagement.
Okay! Thanks for reading. Because even though this blog post wasn’t All Coherent or All Useful or All Anything, it is this: