All or Nothing thinking is a cognitive distortion in which we perceive others and ourselves in an extreme manner. This type of thinking pattern keeps us emotionally stuck because our perception of others and ourselves are either all good or all bad. Individuals struggling with this type of stinking thinking either see themselves as a complete success or a complete failure. Most individual with Anxiety and Depression tend to focus on extremes that highlight their shortcomings or inadequacies. Having all of nothing thinking limits our ability to creatively problem solve because of view is very rigid.
Things you may say if you struggle with All or Nothing Thinking
- If you are in a group of friends and you are all deciding what restaurant to eat at. You all take a vote and your pick did not win. “No one ever wants to do what I want to do” “No one really wants to hang out with me they just tolerate me”.
- You tell your longtime friend about a dispute you have with a co-worker. Your friend provides you with feedback on how you could have handled the dispute differently and you respond… “ If you are not for me your against me” “ You never take my side in a situation”
- You have many friends and most people enjoy being around you. One day someone comes up to you and says something, mean to you. You respond, “Everyone hates me” No one likes me at school.
- Your spouse shares their appreciation to you for helping out with sharing the chores but provides feedback on how you could improve a chore. You explode angrily stating, “Nothing I do is every appreciated or everything I do is never good enough.
- You manage to get the courage to ask a girl you have been interested in for her phone number. She gives you her number. When you decide to call she does not answer and the phone immediately and you begin to think…”I am a complete failure”, “She will never be interested in someone like me”.
This type of thinking error is reflective of our relationship with ourselves. Our self-concept or our beliefs and assumptions about ourselves will help us to escape the grip of this type of Stinking Thinking. We can challenge our all or nothing-negative thought traps by asking ourselves the following questions.
Challenge your Stinking Thinking
- Is there an alternative more positive way to look at this situation?
- Is there evidence that supports my opinion or perception? What is the quality of this evidence?
- Is this perception I hold helpful or harmful to my emotional well-being? And what can I do to cope?
- Rather than assume, ask for clarity from others involved in the event to assess how your perception lined up with theirs. Do this in a non-judgmental and threatening way to increase social intelligence.
- Recognize your negative perception and dispute with more encouraging self-talk about yourself and others.