Unhelpful Thinking Patterns 4/11 - Overgeneralising
Updated: Aug 4
This is the fourth part of a series looking at common unhelpful thinking habits. These are patterns of thinking that our minds can slip into as a way of coping with challenging situations. You can read more about this in my earlier post here.
Overgeneralising is another common unhelpful thinking habit that can be associated with anxiety and depression. It tends to travel with the ‘All or Nothing’ style of thinking discussed in my last post.
This thinking habit occurs when our minds extrapolate from one experience and uses it to come to a conclusion about ourselves or our situations in the future - "bad things always happen to me".
The situation with the COVID-19 pandemic has provided fertile breeding ground for this kind of thinking. The global pandemic rumbled on for more than two years and after all that time it was easy to feel like it was never going to end. This triggered thoughts for some people such as “things will never get back to normal”. With a chronic situation like this, it is difficult for our minds not to extrapolate and predict a difficult future ahead.
When you find yourself getting stuck in this way of thinking, bring awareness to the fact that your mind may be magnifying the situation – remind yourself that in the past there have been things that you thought would always happen (or conversely never happen) but actually turned out differently. Keeping a journal can be helpful with this as you can go back and review all the predictions you have made in the past to see just how accurate they were (my bet is: not very!).
Another way to overcome this way of thinking is to reframe the situation. This isn’t about trying to dismiss the negatives and pretend that they didn’t happen, but balancing out the negatives by also acknowledging the positive. So “things will never get back to normal” becomes “things are not normal at the moment because of a situation that is out of my control, but they are changing every week and over time we are getting closer to normality”.
And don’t forget to show kindness to yourself – slip ups are inevitable, so be open to forgiving yourself on the occasions that you fall back into the old habit; after all, you don’t want to wake up your inner critic after working so hard on that in my earlier post!