Thursday, November 29, 2012

Cognitive Distortion #2, Overgeneralization

Overgeneralization is a pretty easy one to spot.  It's when you see a single negative event as a never-ending pattern of defeat, that failing at one point means that you will continue to fail and fail and fail over and over and over again.
You fail a pop quiz and your brain says, "I always fail pop quizzes.  I'm never going to be able to do them."

You put in a job application and get turned down and your brain thinks, "I'm never going to get a job.  No one wants to hire someone my (age/size/sex/background/experience level)."

Your family doesn't enjoy the meal you prepare for them and your brain says, "They all hate my cooking.  I don't see why I even keep trying."

You are trying to keep your living room tidy and once again it's messy and you say to yourself, "Just face it. This room will never be clean."

You are struggling to overcome a sinful habit.  Once again you fail to reach your standard of behavior and you think, "I am such a loser. I'll never be able to be as good as I want to be.  God's going to be so totally disappointed in me."

You are going through a rough patch in your efforts to pull together an activity for the teenagers in your congregation and as you drive home one night reviewing what you've done and what you have yet to do you hear your brain say, "This is never going to work."

Whether it's a response to a one-time event or a continued response to an ongoing struggle that will likely take a long time, that cognitive distortion habit of overgeneralization can be a real hope killer.  It's also one of the first cognitive distortions that, when I learned about them,  I recognized as one I had going around in my own brain. Becoming aware of it and of how it skewed the truth in my mind, taking a temporary set-back and reinterpreting it falsely into a prediction of ultimate failure, was eye-opening to me.  Learning how to talk back to it with truth either out loud or in my mind made a huge difference in my capacities and vision and sense of light.