Getting Away From All-Or-None Thinking

Image by DanaMums via Flickr

Self-Care Tip #98 – Getting out of all-or-none thinking may mean getting medical help.

Number five on Bella’s list:

The day has been ruined!” Bella said.  Her eyes sparkled and flashed as she spoke of her injury.  Bella was not so pleased with her labor’s reward.  She was not so satisfied with being accountable for her children‘s behaviors, when they thwarted her every effort at having a good family experience.

A reader eloquently commented what I now want to write on my mirror, about her walk through and away from all-or-none thinking:

..really only part of my day was ruined – the part when I was hurt or angry or frustrated or depressed, etc. – and, even then, only PART of me was totally miserable. I was still able to think about other things, get things done around the house, talk to a family member or friend. It’s really calming to know that I can hurt and still function because there are so many pieces of me and my life that are still okay. Suddenly, everything seems to be easier to deal with.

In an earlier post, “Adequate,” we talked about the truth being in the gray.  As my Dad so often told me,

Things are never as bad as they seem.

I had a hard time believing that at times when I was a kid, and now that I’m old-er 😉 I buy it cognitively but find I often doubt is at an emotionally intuitive level.  However, things do get much much much better for all of us after good sleep, exercise, water, and if medically needed, medication.

All-or-none thinking, extreme thinking, catastrophizing isn’t just about coping skills.  It can also be about our medical condition.  It’s very difficult to modulate emotions when you are emotionally ill.  I’ve heard so many confounded people say that they just couldn’t stop themselves from going into extreme emotions.  They struggled with reactions way past what the experience warranted.

A kid doesn’t listen to words and Dad is kicking a hole in the door.

A couple argues over levels of intimacy and the girl finds herself in the bathroom with a cutting tool.

Work is another day of punitive treatment by an employer with lesser intelligence and she’s vomiting up food.

In these examples, we reflexively coddle the person, saying, “Anyone would be upset if….”  However that is not true entirely.  Enabling someone’s illness is easy to do.  Bad things happen to everyone.  But not everyone responds in a way that is repeatedly unhealthy to themselves.

In order to treat ourselves well, we need to take care of our physical/biological/medical needs.  Say hypothetically that we are getting our sleep, and all that good stuff, yet still have involuntary inappropriate extreme emotions, think about an organic reason.  Give yourself a break.

I have told my Dad, “True, things are never as bad as they seem, but only as long as you get out of their current seeming-reality.”  Getting out of that reality, may mean getting medical help.

Be a friend to yourself.

Question:  How do you stay “adequate?”  Please tell me your story.

4 thoughts on “Getting Away From All-Or-None Thinking

  1. Wow! This site is amazing. It’s like getting therapy by e-mail. Smile! On a more serious note, today’s topic was particularly relevant to me. Society, the church, and/or our parents often lump us into these success/failure boxes. The truth of the matter is that no one is really a complete success or failure. It is also true that sleep, food, emotional needs being met, etc. do play a HUGE role in how we feel at any given time.
    I also appreciate the way Sana Johnson-Quijada integrates psychiatry and faith. This is especially meaningful to me as my father stated over-and-over again that all you need is a right relationship with Jesus and you will never be depressed or suffer any emotional distress as this was just a symptom of a “lack of faith”. As an adult I’ve come to believe quite differently, but sadly I’ve never had the courage to confront my father on this point. Maybe one day…

  2. I like this question.. It was very thought provoking in many different directions. How do I staay adequate? For me, sometimes it means that I empty myself completly and start all over again in simplicity.. Then maybe I am not so overwhelemed and then I don’t feel in adequate in the first place. I think it is one of the cycles of life that we rotate through and that helps us refine ourselves over again.

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