analytical Q May-Aug 2000 Sept-Dec 2000 Jan-Apr 2001 Discussion

The Diary
Anne Ku

4 January 2001 Thursday



MEN are disturbed not by things but by the views which they take of them." Epictetus, 1st century AD. Here are some examples of black and white thinking which inflicts most people, including myself.

Arbitrary inference: we draw a conclusion regardless of the facts. "We're going abroad. I will pack lighter clothes." Somehow, I always assume it's warmer when I go outside of England, regardless of the time of year. By packing lighter clothes, I reinforce my wishful thinking.

Selective abstraction: we focus on only one single aspect of a situation. "I've got a headache, now the whole day's ruined."

Overgeneralisation: we select one or two traumatic experiences and subsequently apply them to every other situation. "Neighbours always cause me trouble." I did have neighbours from hell, but they've left. My new neighbours are quiet and decent, but I'm still hesitant to make friends.

Magnification and minimisation: we fail to evaluate the real significance of events and make mountains out of molehills or vice versa. "He didn't respond to my email, he doesn't like me."

Personalisation: we refer unconnected events to ourselves. "There's flooding in Yorkshire. I'm going to drown."

Absolutist, dichotomous thinking: this is black-and-white thinking in that events are either viewed as good or bad with no shades of grey. "I'm too ugly, nobody will ever want to be my friend."

Irrational beliefs: "I should be able to complete this article by tomorrow. If I can't, I'm stupid, slow, and useless." Three major ones:

  • I must do well and win people's approval or I'm worthless.
  • Other people must treat me as I want them to or they should be punished.
  • Life must give me all I want, and nothing I don't want.

Source: Positive Health, Jan 2001