Preview Mode Links will not work in preview mode

May 4, 2020

This is the second in a series of podcasts by David and Rhonda focusing on the best techniques to crush each of the ten cognitive distortions I first published in my book, Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy. Today, we focus on All-or-Nothing Thinking. that's where you look at the world in black-or-white categories, as if shades of gray do not exist. For example, if you're not a complete success you may tell yourself that you're a complete failure.

All-or-Nothing Thinking is one of the most common cognitive distortions, and it causes or contributes to many common forms of emotional distress, including:

  • perfectionism
  • depression
  • Social anxiety--
    • performance anxiety
    • public speaking anxiety
    • shyness
  • hopelessness and suicidal urges
  • anger, relationship conflicts, and violent urges
  • habits and addictions
  • and more

However, this distortion can be also be helpful to you, and may reflect some of your core values. For example, your perfectionism

  • shows that you have high standards, and won't settle for second-best
  • may motivate you to work hard and do excellent work
  • prevents you from glossing over your failures and mistakes
  • intensifies your emotional life, which may feel like a glorious roller coaster ride, with intense ups (when you do well) and equally intense downs (when you fall short.)

So, before you can challenge a negative thought with this, or any distortion, you'll have to decide why in the world you'd want to do that, given all the benefits of your negative thoughts and feelings.

One of the possible down sides of All-or-Nothing Thinking is that it simply does not map onto reality. There is little in the universe that is 100% or 0%. Most of the time, or even all of the time, we're somewhere between 0% and !00%. For example, this podcast is not incredibly fantastic, or absolutely horrible. It is somewhere in-between, and will hopefully be of some value to you. While it clearly won't solve ALL of your problems, it may be a useful step forward.

We describe a number of example of All-or-Nothing Thinking, including a physician who was trying to diet and ended up binging on a half gallon of ice cream, and a suicidal young woman with incredibly severe depression who was involved in self-mutilation.

There are many ways of crushing the negative thoughts that contain All-or-Nothing Thinking, including Thinking in Shades of Gray. Although that might sound rather drab in comparison to the drama of All-or-Nothing Thinking, you may discover that the world becomes far more colorful when you learn to think in shades of gray!

In the next podcast in this series, David and Rhonda will discuss the TEAM-CBT techniques that can especially helpful for the next distortion, Overgeneralization. David argues that Overgeneralization is arguably the cause of all depression and much anxiety, and that the first person to recognize and solve this dilemma was the Buddha, 2500 years ago. More on that topic next week!

David D. Burns, MD / Rhonda Barovsky, PsyD