Wednesday, June 18th, 2008
Do you overgeneralize? Try this self-quiz and learn the antedote
|Hi, friends. Have you ever noticed that our brains are wired to simplify our experiences? We’ll often naturally figure out rules and patterns, which is why we are able to acquire language so easily, figure out math rules and apply them, and decipher how to act in ambiguous situations.
Sometimes this tendency to simplify our understanding results in making mistakes about people, situations, or even ourselves. For example, at various points in history, people have decided to persecute select groups due their faulty beliefs about those groups. People have also decided to give up on themselves–sometimes we wonder if they gave up too early in the ballgame.
When you take something that has happened once or twice and decide that it is always this way or never that way, you are overgeneralizing.
Here is a fun self-quiz to help you decide how prone you are to overgeneralizing:
Do you often say, “Men are …..” or “Women are…..” when describing a person of the opposite sex?
Do you decide that you cannot do something if you fail to do a part of it well?
Do you believe that if someone hasn’t exhibited a certain behavior so far, they never will?
Do you often use words such as “always” or “never”?
Do you decide that something won’t work out because it hasn’t yet worked out?
Do you think that certain groups are basically a certain way, due to your experience with a few members of a group?
If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you may have a tendency to overgeneralize in certain areas of your life.
To overcome this, you might try what I call the “just because” game. Simply put your rule into the sentence and refute it:
Just because one (man, woman, child, dog, cat, member of a group, etc.) did, doesn’t mean they all do.
Just because one (man, woman, child, dog, cat, member of a group, etc.) didn’t, doesn’t mean they all don’t.
Just because it happened once, doesn’t mean it will always happen.
Just because it hasn’t happen, doesn’t mean it will never happen.
Just because I failed at one part, it doesn’t dictate that I’ll fail the entire task.
Just because it occurs often, doesn’t mean it always will.
Just because it occurs seldom, doesn’t mean it never will.
When we overgeneralize, we limit ourselves to what we think we know. We close the door to new instances and to possibility. This can lead to negativity and unhealthy negative emotions.
In an attempt to simplify our experience of life, we actually may close doors to people or situations that may make our lives richer, more interesting, and more enjoyable. Over the years, this can take its toll on your life.
So, consider expanding your views by playing the “just because” game! People often tell me that when they play this little game with themselves, they feel better!
And, when you feel happier, it will be easier to tune in to your healthy inner voice: Your Inner Guidance!
Lots of love,
Pam Garcy, PhD