Be at peace: Always avoid generalizations

When reading the blog post titled “Becoming doubtful of doubt,” I was struck by one particular idea hidden amidst it: generalizations are a dangerous thing.

In defining doubt as a “lack of confidence,” the writer says:

Part of the cognitive distortion is that we’re temporarily unable to remember any counter-examples — times that we succeeded and when the task went well, and times when we experienced obstacles and difficulties and overcame them. We think of ourselves as trapped, and stuck, and can’t imagine any creative way out of our situation. The hindrance of doubt hijacks the mind — both our emotions and our thoughts — and leaves us feeling trapped.

The writer goes on to quote an article from the New York Times that shows how we take one negative experience and make statements about it ALWAYS being that way. (The writer talks about it with regards to depression, but I associated it with my bout of anxiety, which is in the same family as depression. I call it my worst-case-scenario thinking.) Talk about a lightbulb moment. In an instant, one simple word (always) can make us feel trapped, stuck, mired in muck. I also am reminded of disagreements or arguments that really got under my skin because of that one little word. The word always is a generalization, which is a part of doubt, which is rooted in a lack of confidence, which ultimately is a dangerous thing.

My thought stream continued in two directions after my lightbulb moment.

  1. I pondered how generalizations also inherently include judgements, and how I work hard at being open and accepting and judgement-free. It is really hard work. I went digging through archives and found this blog post from ZenHabits titled “How to Live Life to the Max with Beginner’s Mind,” which is really packed with wonderful tips, including about embracing your “don’t know mind”. Love it.
  2. I pondered the idea of how very little (I had said “nothing” but that felt like a generalization!) is ever “black and white” but really frequently “shades of grey” (which led me to the Indigo Girls song, Closer to Fine, but I will leave that song’s lyrics for a different post). I landed on another blog post titled “What Color is Your Journey?” shortly after this, which I thought was very apropos for where my ponderings led me.

When I thought about writing my own blog post, I think I had grand notions that I would say something remarkable and memorable. Instead, I think I have just shared some musings. Perhaps that can be enough.

This entry was posted in accept, open. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Be at peace: Always avoid generalizations

  1. dianegervais says:

    Thanks for sharing this, Michelle. I also, when in a dour mood, think in terms of “always” and its mostly just adding to the negativity … I get selective memory :-)

    And yes, it is relieving and relaxing to just “not know” everything…..”I don’t know” is a great spiritual practice, I think.

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