christian counseling

Cognitive Distortion #1: Black or White/Polarized thinking

I love the song by the late Michael Jackson, “Black or White” and it truly shouldn’t matter when it comes to the color of your skin but we are not talking about skin today. We are discussing our black-or-white thoughts also known as polarized thinking.

First of all, I acknowledge that polarized thinking can be helpful in an emergency situation. However, polarized thinking can be harmful if it is used all of the time in your thought life.

This type of thinking is very rigid in nature. It can often prevent you from trying new things or challenging yourself.

Here are some examples:

-I am a complete failure if I’m not the best at __________.

-I must be the best athlete in my school or I should quit.

-I am unlikeable so I should just stay at home.

-If I eat unhealthy once the whole day is ruined.

You get the point. Consider going throughout the day and writing down all of the times your thoughts are polarized. This is where you can begin to identify and then prepare to change unhealthy thinking.

In order to combat the cognitive distortion of polarized or black or white thinking, you can first try adding one of two short conjunctions, AND or BUT.

Let’s practice:

-I failed this test, but I will study next time.

-I may not be the best athlete on the team, but I am a great team player.

-I do things at times that cause people to not like me and while I don’t mean to do certain things on purpose, I’m trying to learn from my mistakes.

-I ate an unhealthy breakfast and for lunch, I will eat a balanced, healthy meal.

Try it today when you find yourself thinking this way. Don’t settle for distorted thoughts!

Have a great day,

Dr. Atwell

By Natalie Atwell Counseling

Dr. Natalie Atwell is a Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor Supervisor in NC and a Board Certified Professional Christian Counselor. She values being transparent, honest, knowing when to be silly and when not to be silly (which isn't that often) and thinks laughter is a gift from God.

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