Bad things can happen. People die, break up, get sick, or lose jobs. When these things do happen, it can churn your brain into a chaotic all-out disaster scenario.
You may think things like you’ll never get healthy, nobody will ever love you again, or you won’t be able to live without the loss of a loved one. It’s literally all or nothing.
This type of thinking is an example of an automatic negative thought, or ANT. All or nothing is one type of this kind of thinking. They are marked by the interpretation of distressing situations in unbalanced ways without true examination of the overall context.
Without recognizing and combatting them, they can drain you from happiness and joy.
This type of thinking typically occurs during periods of anxiety or distress. And although they can be normal on occasion, they are a problem when they become chronic or extreme.
Getting into a negative mental state can make it easy to recall anything bad anyone ever said about you or any mistake you ever made. It becomes nearly impossible to remember all the good you’ve done.
All-or-nothing thinking leaves you stuck in a good or bad, success or failure, extreme, without any grey area.
Two other forms of ANT self-sabotaging thinking are “should” statements and discounting positive thoughts. The former is that, essentially, there is a right and wrong way to do everything, and mistakes are unacceptable. The latter is that anything good or happy is a complete fluke.
These cognitive distortions can make it very hard to enjoy life and think clearly.
Here are some ways to beat them:
Catch It: Pay attention to how you frame things. Remind yourself that most things are not absolute, so catch yourself using the language and remember that most things exist in the gray.
Write It Down: Sometimes, seeing your thoughts on paper can help with perspective and also engage a different part of your brain. It can help you evaluate your thoughts.
Look at the Counter-Evidence: The facts are probably different from reality. For example, if you lost your job, you are not an idiot. If a loved one passes, you will be able to move on with your own life.
Don’t get bogged down by negative thinking. Do your best to think analytically to reduce anxiety.