When our students struggle with self worth and resilience, any setback can become a downward spiral. An incident that doesn’t go their way becomes the truth of their lives. If a friend can’t come over, that generalizes into, “No one likes me” or “I can never count on friends.”
Wow. That’s a heavy thought to bear. And most likely not true.
Why do our students succumb to this common cognitive distortion?
The answer is simple: learned behavior and habit.
This automatic negative thinking feeds into an established mindset and confirms a suspected fear. Overgeneralization bypasses a more rational thought process and digs a deeper groove in a distorted, unproductive thought pattern.
We can teach our students to Think on Purpose before they react instead of grabbing on to the first impulse that crosses their minds. They can ask these questions when they begin to feel a generalization taking over:
- Is this thought really true?
- How do I know if it’s true or not?
- Is this thought hurting or helping me?
- How can I think differently?
Pose these questions to your students when they fall into the overgeneralization trap. Perhaps post them in your office or classroom for students to use as a filter to keep cognitive distortions from becoming beliefs!