Why Some People Overgeneralize the NegativeA young girl, neither too sad but never quite happy, would visit her grandmother by the shining sea.

The old lady was imbued with uncommon wisdom and a love for the Universe in all its manifestations, kinks, goodness and light.

The young girl would sit on her grandmother’s knee and together they would watch the stretching ocean, which was sometimes blue as illuminated turquoise, and other days dark and magnificent

But whatever the weather, the light in the old woman’s eyes was always as bright as starlight.

“Just look at the light on the water my dear!” she would say, and together they would gaze at the reflected sun as it skipped and danced atop the stillness of the waves.

Sometimes the girl would laugh inwardly because even on the greyest, roughest of days, her grandmother would comment on the “light on the water” with seemingly endless appreciation. But regardless, the girl loved the company, the sense of adventure, and the feeling of infinite goodness and possibility whenever they were together.

And despite the old lady growing sick from time-to-time, her spirit only grew stronger even as its vessel weakened.

Years passed like blossoms floating on quickening water, and the young girl grew into womanhood. She became successful and traveled, and throughout her years she laughed, cried, loved and experienced the normal emotions of adulthood.

But one day news reached her that her grandmother was dying. Arriving too late for her final farewell, she stood in the empty house by the sea; so achingly familiar yet so strange without her grandmother.

She held back the tears until a glance from the sea-view window sent them gushing.

“How could they!” she cried aloud. “Oh grandmother, just look at that horrible stinking oil rig! Our beautiful view is ruined.”

At that point she seemed to hear her grandmother’s golden voice:

“I know dear, but still, just look at the sunlight on the water!”

How We Overgeneralize the Negative

One common feature of those prone to depression is the psychological habit of “globalizing,” otherwise known as negative overgeneralizing.

I see globalizing daily in sad, depressed and despondent clients in my practice.

So what do I mean by “globalizing?”

Well, when something goes wrong, say we have a fight with a friend, we fail an exam, or a valued romance finishes – we feel like the whole world is over, rather than just one small area of our life not going to plan.

For example, when a relationship ends, your interpretation may be: “I am sad about that part of my life.” The sadness is unpleasant, but it’s contained.

Whereas if you globalize, your interpretation may be: “My whole life is ruined! Nothing ever works out for me!”

Or if your business hasn’t worked out, your interpretation may be, “Well it hasn’t worked yet, but I still have my loving friends and thank goodness for my art, and my love of dance and music!”

But your global interpretation would be: “Nothing ever works out for me! Everything is just crap!”

While these may seem like exaggerated examples, this pattern of globalization is often an unconscious one – therefore, it’s important to become are of it and start challenging this pattern of thinking.

Psychologist Martin Seligman found that children learn this negative pattern of thinking from parents (and other people in their lives), but it is a behavior that can be reversed, in parents and children alike.

I personally learned to stop globalizing negatives because there are always exceptions, and if we look hard enough, light can always be seen shining off the water, even in the toughest of times.

When something’s not going right in our lives, it’s easy for us to start believing that everything is a mess. If you’ve managed to break free from this pattern of thinking and have a way of bringing things back into perspective, please share what it is below.

Want to learn more about how you can overcome feelings of distress or anxiety? Click here to learn about Mark Tyrrell’s 10 Steps to Overcome Social Anxiety.


Mark Tyrrell

Mark Tyrrell

Mark Tyrrell has over 15 years of experience treating people with social anxiety and lecturing on the subject around the UK. He is also the author of 10 Steps to Overcome Social Anxiety, and the co-founder of Uncommon Knowledge, a hypnosis and psychology training company, teaching people about their psychology and empowering them to perform at their best.

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