Never Ever Say Never Ever – Explaining Cognitive Distortions
By Dana Maloney, Founder of Good Enough Therapist (GET).
“Black and white thinking,” AKA “all-or-nothing thinking,” is a cognitive distortion discussed in the evidence-based theory, CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy).
Cognitive distortions occur when our minds convince ourselves of something that isn’t true, preventing us from seeing ourselves and the world clearly. They are very common, and most of the time, we have no clue that there is something wrong with our thinking.
One particular cognitive distortion, all-or-nothing thinking, means exactly how it sounds. It’s when we go to extremes. Most of us tend to think this way a lot. I catch myself almost daily, saying things to myself like, “I always look like crap,” or, “I am never going to get this work done.” Even seemingly harmless chatter like “I never make a good impression,” can be a big blow to our self-esteem and can become self-fulfilling.
I’m sure we can all agree that we don’t always or never do this or that. The truth is that most things lie in shades of gray and are not that polarized. It is certainly more accurate for me to reframe and say instead, “this work is going to take me a long time,” or, “sometimes I struggle with making a good impression.” This may not seem like a very big difference, but it is.
Our core beliefs and schemas are formed as a result of what we tell ourselves over and over again. This, in turn, affects our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. It also allows us to have complete control over how we view ourselves and the world. A subtle shift in phrasing can make a huge difference because cognitive distortions will cloud and twist our realities and judgment. And, when we are so hard on ourselves for not being perfect, we close ourselves off to feeling good enough. We shun our inner badass.
Dana Maloney is a disruptive therapist, life coach, and founder of Good Enough Therapist. Her mission is to disrupt the traditional model of therapy by making it less sterile and stigmatized, and more accessible and affordable. She is based in Venice, CA.