The Stories We Write in Our Heads Part 3
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Want to read Part Two of Stories We Write in Our Heads? Click Here
One day, I was sitting across from my trusted counselor complaining about my husband. “He made a list of ten chores to get done on Saturday, and he ONLY DID SEVEN OF THEM!” I cried. I stared at my counselor, waiting for her to agree with my indignation. Instead, she cocked her head and looked at me. “What?” I said.
A smile emerged on her face.
Counselor:Begins to giggle
Me:What?!!! In school, getting a 7 out of 10 is a D!
Counselor:Full blown laughter
Counselor:Continues to laugh
Me: Wait…Is this about me?
And so began my understanding that all-or-nothing thinking is a kind ofanxiety.
In school, seven out of ten may be a “D,” but life is not school. We aren’t graded on everything we do. The fact that my husband completed seven of the ten things on his to-do list was actually a reason to celebrate, not a reason to complain.
All-or-nothing thinking tells us that a situation has to be EVERYTHING or NOTHING at all.
But in reality, recognizing small steps and incremental amounts of progress has value.
Can you see how letting go of these stories will remove anxiety?
Where does “all-or-nothing” thinking show up for you?
Here’s what I’m getting at:
If you identify with these examples, I invite you to view life through a new lens.
Not a lens of all or nothing, but a lens ofgratitude.
A lens of thankfulness for what we DO have; of what IS completed.
A lens of embracing thesimple pleasure that comes from engaging in a process.
Inevitably we respond to this idea with thoughts like,“but what about getting into medical school? You have to have all As for that.” Or,“that just sounds lazy.”
I can tell you from personal and professional experience, these responses are just another brand of all-or-nothing thinking.
There are some parts of life that require high achievement, but a healthy perspective in life recognizes which parts of life need to be all in, and which parts can begood enough.
I hope this helps you identify all-or-nothing thinking and reduce some of the anxiety in your life.
Donna Durham, MMFT
President and Founder
I have worked with a number of clients struggling with anxiety whose particular “ go-to” anxiety is catastrophic thinking...
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