Overgeneralization is a thinking style that can be very harmful to our inner voice. Overgeneralization is when we generalize beyond appropriate or justified limits. What does this mean? We tend to have one experience and generalize it to all experiences. I personally do this a lot.
Overgeneralization and Social Anxiety
Overgeneralization can commonly be an issue with depression and social anxiety. For those that overgeneralize, like myself, we see an experience and we assume that it’ll happen every time. We are drawing a conclusion just from one example. This is harmful for me personally with my own social anxiety. When I have a bad experience public speaking and I am extremely nervous and anxious to do so again. I have a bad experience at a family members house and it’s hard for me to go again without anxiety. That is overgeneralization. I’m assuming the bad experience will happen every time.
This thinking style can be harmful to our relationships.
If we see a bad behavior from a person, or we are hurt by a person once, we may overgeneralize it as a pattern that will continue forever. Or, it’s harmful to our own self image and self esteem. We see ourselves make a mistake and we see it as a pattern of never ending mistakes.
Overgeneralization and Your World View
Overgeneralization can be very harmful to your own world view. When we see one person do something bad, such as commit a crime, we may think everyone like him (the same race, religion, class, etc) are the same. Overgeneralizing an entire group of people can be what separates us and causes political & religious strife.
How do we change our thinking?
Pay attention to your conscious thought.
How are you perceiving people and situations around you. Are you drawing conclusions about a person and situation solely based on a past experience?
How can you rethink the situation?
Question your thoughts validity. Is it true. Have you seen signs from this person or experience that it is truly like the previous experience? If not what do you see that’s different?
Gain real experiences?
Go out and meet people of all different races, religions, genders, etc. Create experiences for yourself by meeting new people. Do what you can to understand them individually. Who are they? What makes them unique? What do you like about them? Once you can have these experiences it’s easy to stop generalizing from one person or experience that happened to be your first.
Do you overgeneralize?
How have you tried to change it?
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