I’ve written before about cognitive distortions, and in this post I’m going to focus on overgeneralizing.
When something bad happens, the message I take from that is the world is an unsafe place. This feeling of being unsafe spreads from whatever is related to the problematic event to the world in general. People hurt me, and therefore I shouldn’t have people in my life. I push away everyone indiscriminately, because I feel like I can trust no one.
Recently, something negative happened to do with one of my jobs. I turned to one of my favourite maladaptive coping techniques, avoidance, to pretend that this just wasn’t happening. Despite my attempts to pretend, I felt unsafe. So when a friend tried to get in touch with me, I stayed in my figurative cave and didn’t respond. I felt unsafe talking to anyone. This friend kept trying for a while, although in my warped little mind they weren’t trying hard enough, and then appeared to give up. It was a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy; I felt unsafe and found a way to prove to myself that this person was unsafe.
I don’t like that I do this. It’s maladaptive, but I seem to be unable to recognize that until after I’ve kind of made a bit of a mess of things. The problem is, I’ve accumulated so much evidence over the last few years that the world and the people in it are unsafe. I truly don’t believe this is a cognitive distortion, and I could come up with a pretty long list of specific examples. So with all this evidence the question becomes how to convince myself that the same pattern is not necessarily going to repeat itself in the future. It just seems so naïve to expect that the future is just magically going to be different from the past.
I don’t have any insightful conclusion to this post. It seems weird to think that not all that long ago I had a very optimistic outlook and I thought the world was generally a good place. Maybe I’ll get back to that someday, but right now I’m just not sure how to even begin to transition back to that.