Cognitive distortions series: polarised thinking

August 20, 2020

This is part of a series looking at the most common cognitive distortions, how they show up, and what you can do to start becoming more aware of them in a personal, career and team context that I originally posted on Instagram. You can read more about cognitive distortions and find links to other posts here.

What is polarised thinking?

Otherwise known as all-or-nothing thinking, polarised thinking is seeing things in terms of extremes only. Things are either supercoolawesome or they're totally sh*t - there's no in between. It's a belief that there are only two possible (polar opposite) options: good/bad, perfection/failure, right/wrong, genius/dunce.

How polarised thinking shows up

Because supercoolawesome (AKA perfection!😜 ) is nigh on impossible to attain, polarised thinkers often focus on negative extremes, leading to low self-esteem and motivation.

How it might show up for you:

In your life

"I've completely ruined my diet with this slice of cake."

In your career

"If I don't get this job, I'm a complete idiot"

In your team

"We've cut one small thing out of our project to deliver it on time - the whole thing is a failure."

Challenge your thinking by

Filling in the grey!

Filling in the grey:

  1. 1. Write your thought at one end of a piece of paper, e.g. things are totally sh*t.
  2. 2. Decide what you'd call the opposite, e.g. supercoolawesome (yup, that's the opposite for me!)
  3. 3. Write a list of all the things that would need to be happening for your thought to be true, e.g. I'm ALWAYS sad. Fill in the opposites as you go, e.g. I'm NEVER sad. Write as many as you can think of and be as objective as possible.
  4. 4. Write a list in the middle that describes an in-betweeny state, e.g. I'm SOMETIMES sad.
  5. 5. Ask yourself which list REALLY describes your reality most accurately.

You can do this on your own as a journalling prompt, with a friend/partner, or as a team activity with post-its. It's just one way of challenging polarised thinking that I use with clients. If you'd like to make sure that you're not held back by polarised thinking and belief systems anymore, book your FREE 30 minute call now.

Come and say hi! You can connect with me on Instagram (Rachel @ Rachel Lee Coaching) and LinkedIn too.