Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Mental Mistake #2 – Overgeneralization

Continuing the discussion on the 26 Common Mental Mistakes, number two on the list is overgeneralization.  According to Dr. Aldo Pucci in his book Feel the Way You Want to Feel, No Matter What, overgeneralization is the unintentional exaggeration of the frequency of something (saying something ALWAYS or NEVER happens), or an inaccurate extrapolation (saying that because one part of a group is a certain way, all parts of that group must be that way).

1. Unintentional Exaggerations
This mental mistake is particularly used in marriages and in families with teenagers.  You may have heard your loved ones say something like, “You NEVER let me do anything!” or “You ALWAYS get upset when I tell you how I feel, so I’ve learned not to tell you.”  If these are not statements of fact, then these loved ones are overgeneralizing.  They are not intentionally exaggerating; they are merely using the English language style they were taught.  Is it accurate to say that someone ALWAYS gets upset when feelings are expressed by someone else?  If it is, then this is not an overgeneralization, but a fact.  However, if there has been one time where the person did not get upset, then this statement is no longer fact.  It now implies that the person has the inability to feel something other than upset when the other person expresses his or her feelings.  The same is true for the NEVER statement.  If it is true that the person has not one time in the past let the other person do anything, then this is a statement of fact. If it is untrue that the person has never let the other person do anything, it is implied that the person in authority is a spiteful, tyrannical killjoy, and the statement is inaccurate.

2. Inaccurate Extrapolations
Inaccurate extrapolations can lead to many misconceptions.  For example, a person was driving down the road and noticed a crew of Latino workers quickly and beautifully landscaping a property.  The person told his wife, “You know, Latinos are hard workers.”   They continued driving and passed a road construction crew where everyone, including Latinos and other races, was taking a break.  The wife said to her husband, “You know, Latinos are lazy.”  Who was right?  Neither!  Just because the Latinos in one situation were working hard does not mean that all of them do, and just because they were not working hard in the second example does not mean that they all do not work hard.  Other examples of inaccurate extrapolations can include:
Asians are intelligent.

White people are money hungry and have no rhythm.

Black people are good at basketball and can dance.

Christians are stupid.

Muslims are terrorists.

Men are evil.

Women are crazy.

All hot dogs make me vomit. (The person who said this had vomited only after eating hot dogs from a certain
restaurant one time, and had never before vomited after eating hot dogs there)

Athletes are idiots.

Nerds are not cool.

Band members are geeks.

Teenagers are lazy.

Fords (or Hondas or Chevys or Pontiacs) are unreliable and will break down on you.

Inaccurate extrapolations like these can lead to prejudice, hate crimes, and other unhealthy fears.  They can also lead to mistaken underlying assumptions such as these groups of people or things being unable to be anything else than how they have been judged.

How to avoid Overgeneralizing:
1. Speak the facts, not what appears to be the facts or what is just easier to say.
2. Make judgments on a case-by-case basis rather than judging all things to be a certain way simply because one thing was that way.

For more information, read Feel the Way You Want to Feel, No Matter What by Aldo Pucci.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Look Out for Mental Mistakes!

Are you a procrastinator? A perfectionist? Prone to depressed thinking? Just a little “OCD”? Prone to panic, worry, or any other type of anxiety? Your problem may be that you are making some mental mistakes!

Dr. Aldo Pucci, the developer of Rational-Living Therapy, has identified 26 Common Mental Mistakes that most people make.  These mental mistakes are easily identified, and once they are understood, they are easily rectified.  Throughout the next few months I will be describing these Mental Mistakes, giving examples, and showing you what to do about them.

1. All or None Thinking:  All or none thinking is defined as “seeing no middle ground.”  This is often referred to as “Black or White thinking.”  People who think in terms of All or None often have difficulty with:

Procrastination -  “If I can’t get it all done in one sitting, I won’t do any of it.”

Perfectionism - “It’s not worth doing if I can’t do it perfectly.” “It’s not worth turning in if it’s not perfect.” “I’d rather take an F than turn in imperfect work.” “You either do the work completely or you don’t do it at all.”

Trying new things or staying with something they enjoy - “There is no use of me playing soccer if I can’t be on the USA’s World Cup soccer team.”

Marriage Issues - “You either love me or you don’t.” “The way I fold towels is the only way to do it correctly.”

Idealizing others - “He/she is perfect.”

Devaluing others - “He/she is absolutely terrible.”

Depression - “This situation is absolutely hopeless. There is no solution.” “Life is not worth living without _____.”

Dieting or Sobriety - “I indulged one time so I blew it.”

What to do:
1. REFUSE to think this way any longer.

2. Ask yourself if your statement is absolutely true all the time, or if there is some sort of gray area or continuum. Dr. Pucci states that most things in life are on a dimmer switch rather than a light switch.  What he is saying is that there are degrees in most things.

3. Replace your old thought with a new, rational thought.

4. Practice your new rational thought until it becomes your new habit.

For example:

Instead of thinking:Think this:
“If I can’t get it all done in one sitting, I won’t do any of it.”“If I can’t get all this done in one sitting, that’s okay. I will have less to do when I return to this project later.”
“It’s not worth doing if I can’t do it perfectly”“There is value in learning from my mistakes. If I can’t do it perfectly, there is still value in doing it.”
“It’s not worth turning in if it’s not perfect. I’d rather take an F than turn in imperfect work.”“I am a fallible human being. I can’t expect everything I do to be perfect. I would rather turn in imperfect work and pass this class than have to take this class over again because I failed to turn in an assignment”
“There is no use of me playing soccer if I can’t be on the USA’s World Cup soccer team.”“Even if I don’t have the skills or talent for the USA national team, I can still learn a lot and enjoy myself by playing in my recreational league. If I enjoy soccer, I can play as long as possible.”
“You either love me or you don’t.” “Some days your love for me will be stronger than other days.”
“The way I fold towels is the only way to do it correctly.”“There are several ways to do many chores, and even if it’s not my way, it still gets done.”
“He/she is perfect.”“He/she is a fallible human being with positive, negative, neutral qualities.”
“He/she is absolutely terrible.”“He/she is a fallible human being with positive, negative, neutral qualities.”
“This situation is absolutely hopeless. There is no solution.” “Just because I don’t see a solution doesn’t mean one does not exist.”
“Life is not worth living without _____.”“My happiness does not depend on ____. I can have happy days and a satisfying life without ___.”
“I indulged one time so I blew it. I quit.”“I indulged one time. I can learn from this so that I don’t do it again, and I can finish out the rest of today working on my goal of developing new and healthy habits.”

Removing All or None thinking can help to alleviate many problems.  How have you exhibited All or None thinking? What did you do about it?