Josh Shuman is a psychologist who understands how powerful our thoughts can be. When a person develops destructive thinking patterns, it can become very difficult to break free from the pattern without the help of others. Today, Josh Shuman will discuss one of the more common forms of destructive thinking patterns: all-or-nothing thinking. All-or-nothing thinking refers to categorizing all thoughts as either completely positive or completely negative. An all-or-nothing approach to thoughts can come with extreme highs and extreme lows, which can be exhausting.

Another term for all-or-nothing thinking is dichotomous thinking. This thinking pattern has a person assign people, places, and objects as either good or bad. Josh Shuman notes that some psychologists also refer to this behavior as splitting. People who experience dichotomous thinking also deal with issues like eating disorders, psychopathy, untamed aggression, or severe depression.

It’s not uncommon for people to experience all-or-nothing thinking throughout their lives. For instance, when person experiences love for the first time, they will often ignore any aspect of the person they love that would typically be off-putting or aggravating. On the other hand, people can leave arguments with a person who genuinely cares about feeling completely despondent and negative about the person. What’s important is that people can identify these patterns and reset their thinking to notice the many other aspects that make a person who they are. As complicated creatures, every person has good traits and bad traits.

Those dealing with all-or-nothing thinking will typically stop trying new things. It’s a thought process that can completely stunt growth. Joshua Shuman notes that, if a person considers anything a failure that is less than perfect, then just about any endeavor would be considered a failure. The first step to recovering from all-or-nothing thinking is to be able to identify the signs so that help can be brought in to assist. Whether you or someone you care about shows these signs, consider setting a meeting with a psychologist like Joshua Shuman.

Joshua Shuman on Signs All-or-Nothing Thinking

  • For mundane tasks, irritability is experienced when perfection isn’t achieved.
  • Language heavy in absolute terms. Think of words like “impossible,” “never,” “always,” and “failure.”
  • When meeting new people, they are either considered great or awful people without much context.
  • Commonly think or characterize oneself aloud as “awful”, “useless,” or “a failure.”
  • A refusal to try anything new. A person who views everything as a success or utter failure will try to avoid new opportunities at all costs.

Many of the most common mental health issues are commonly made worse via all-or-nothing thinking. These issues include anxiety, OCD, most personality disorders, and depression. All of these struggles can greatly impact a person’s quality of life. Relationships become much more difficult to nurture because a person is too wrapped up in considering others’ as either flawless or completely problematic. Work becomes a much more difficult experience as the dread of failure can quickly grow overwhelming. A strong lack of productivity can be a sign of all-or-nothing thinking. All-or-nothing thinking is not only detrimental to one’s relationships with others but also with themselves. The more a person goes down the path considering their failures, the more dangerous it becomes.

When people notice all-or-nothing thinking in themselves or with a loved one, they should know that there’s always the opportunity to change how one thinks. One of the quickest ways to shift out of this mindset is to start to ask others for their opinion. When people hear another perspective, they are often influenced, and this can break the pattern of getting lost in one’s own thoughts. The perspective of others can also lead to evidence that shows a line of thinking is incorrect, which helps shatter the illusion. Another great way to break the cycle is to remain aware of the words one uses to describe things. By identifying all-or-nothing thinking, a person can begin to change their “always” or “never” mindset and slowly change their behavior.

When a person struggles with overcoming all-or-nothing thinking by themselves, they can turn to a psychologist like Joshua Shuman. Speaking to a professional about these issues is a great way to learn different hints and tricks that can be used to break these destructive patterns and live a happier, healthier life.

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