Here California politely declines a date with Jose. And Jose makes an overgeneralization about what will happen in the future. This is a form of “stinkin’ thinkin'” or cognitive distortion. It is the second type listed in Dr. Burns’ “Ten Forms of Twisted Thinking.” But the guys Lenny works with at the landfill didn’t know that, they just thought it was funny.
Overgeneralization is when you take something, for example a stubbed toe, and conclude that this always happens. You might say “I always stub my toe when I’m in a hurry.” When this may be the first time since you were ten that you’ve stubbed your toe. The incident is usually something negative, and feeds depression. It is an easy thing to think. The brain naturally wants to find patterns. But we must be on our guard against this.
This is the second strip we have done about cognitive distortions. The first one was all or nothing thinking. I refer to books when I write strips and will work my way through Dr. Burns’ list. That reminds me of when I used overgeneralization. One day I sat down to write a strip, and I could only come up with one, not so funny, strip. I thought I would never be able to write more strips. I became sad and upset. That’s what happens when you engage in stinkin’ thinkin’.
Lenny had a similar experience when he tried to go back to school after his mental health crisis. The school did not admit him to the program he chose. He thought he would never get into school again. He thought he was destined to be poor and stuck in his job for the rest of his life. His thoughts and emotions went into a terrible tailspin. Of course it wasn’t true. He is in school now and has high hopes for the future.
PsychCentral has an article on how to fix cognitive distortions. One strategy is to survey people and get their impressions. Evan is acting in that capacity here. He may not be doing it in the most compassionate way, but sometimes that is what we need. Then again, sometimes no matter what people say, we cling tightly to our distorted thoughts.
When have you fallen into overgeneralization? How do you combat it?