In part 7 in this series on letting go, we covered overexpectation and how to deal with it in a way that is empowering. In this part, we’re going to do the same for overgeneralization. While a generalization is unspecific, most generalizations are true (like this one). Overgeneralizations, on the other hand, are always untrue (even this one).
Cue 2: words that indicate overgeneralization, the all-or-nothing words – always, ever, never, no one, everyone, everytime, everything, anything, nothing. Our mind has the tendency to overgeneralize, distort or delete information. There is nothing wrong with that, that is just the way our brain works. And if it is working for you – “I always win the lottery.” - then I wouldn’t change it. The thing is, in most cases it isn’t. Negatively stated overgeneralizations often feel like an attack. When we feel we are being attacked our body gets into fight-or-flight mode as a result. When our body gets in that state, our amygdala heats up, ready to sound the alarm. To take leadership of your thinking, you have to challenge your mind.
“She never listens to me!” When you hear an overgeneralization, you get in your imaginary pause box and ask yourself, “Really? Never? …” This will cool the amygdala a bit. Then you specify your statement so it doesn’t contain any overgeneralization and as a consequence comes closer to being true. “I feel she doesn’t listen to me when I talk about crocheting.” The more specific, the better. This will cool your amygdala even more. Then find the opposite of your overgeneralization. “She always listens to me.” Of course, this isn’t true either. Now find real examples of when she listened to you. “She listened to me when I called her in the middle of the night after my cat died.” Do these answers change how you feel about the situation? Ask yourself if or how you want to react now? Which reaction is in keeping with your vision?
Of course, you may come to the conclusion that indeed this overgeneralization is a close representation of what is actually happening. She only listens when you talk about your sex life. It isn’t never, but it may not be what you want it to be either. Then this conclusion leaves you with a choice.
This is just a different form of bridging. By questioning your deep-rooted negative thoughts, you uproot them. Think of a garden filled with weeds. These weeds prevent your plants from growing, because they usually are better at extracting the necessary nutrients from the soil. By clearing the weeds, you give your creative thoughts room to grow. When the weeds are gone, you have the freedom to grow thoughts and feelings that are in keeping with your vision. Personally, I am not in favor of ‘realism’. I do believe in cultivating positive thoughts and feelings, even if they distort other folk’s ‘reality’. It is my experience that these positive thoughts and feelings will eventually become ‘my reality’. Yes, it may be ‘true’ that you live in a dumpster, but that doesn’t mean you have to have dumpster thoughts “Nothing ever works for me” and dumpster feelings “I am nothing”. You don’t have to deny living in dumpster, to deny the thoughts and feelings that usually go with it.
No matter your circumstances, you can choose to create a different reality by taking leadership of your thoughts, by bridging your thoughts and feelings to a place of abundance, where you feel gratitude for the many blessings that befall you and see ways to realize the vision that is living in your heart.
In the next part, we will discuss overreaction and how pausing can help us let go of this behavioral pattern.
photo by Manny Proebster