The anxiety-driven thought process that isn’t good for anyone.
The homework assignment was easy enough: multiply each number by two.
My niece: I got this, Mom! I don’t need your help.
So, my sister left her daughter to work solo.
When the Problem Isn’t the Problem
My niece had completed the assignment correctly, multiplying each number as directed. But she had also added up each number — something that wasn’t part of the assignment.
When my sister pointed this out, all hell broke loose.
Forget it! I’m bad at math. I hate math.
The problem wasn’t the math itself or my niece’s ability to do math. The real issue: all or nothing thinking.
It didn’t matter that:
- my sister had pointed out what a great job her daughter did on the math homework.
- my niece had, in fact, gotten all of the multiplication correct
All my niece “heard” was the all-or-nothing inner dialogue waging war on her self-esteem:
- I’m horrible at math.
- I hate math.
- The issue must be me, but instead of acknowledging this, I will hide behind hating math itself.
Oreo Cookies Are Only Good for Eating
Black or white thinking is a form of cognitive distortion that we all have to some extent. Believing that things are all good or bad, right or wrong.
If we think of black-or-white thinking as an Oreo cookie, it helps us catch ourselves when we fall into the mental quicksand of dualistic thinking.
Oreo cookies are delicious to eat, but we don’t want to dwell in a black-or-white mindset.
When we keep Oreos in our kitchen pantries and not in our minds, we offer ourselves, and the world around us, greater compassion.
The Skittles Life
You know those high-fructose corn syrup rainbow candies? Now that’s the mental candy lifestyle that fosters a more flexible mindset.
Accepting our inner and outer world as colorful, ever changing, and perfectly imperfect allows us to grow more empathic to ourselves and others.
Life starts to look a lot more forgiving and wonderful when we see through the lens of kindness.
Oreo Thinking vs. Skittles Thinking
Oreo Thinking sounds like this:
- I didn’t get chosen for the play because I have no talent.
- He didn’t call because I’m unloveable.
- I failed the test because I’m stupid.
Skittles Thinking sounds like this:
- While it’s disappointing I didn’t get into the play, I look forward to joining the crew.
- I miss talking to him; I’ll send him a text to say hello.
- I know the material but allowed my nerves to get the best of me. I’ll speak to the teacher and ask if there’s a way for me to demonstrate my understanding of the material.
Fun with Food
Cognitive distortion sounds so serious, so off-putting to kids (and adults). The analogy of food makes cultivating awareness of cognitive errors much more palatable (and downright fun:-)
So, the next time you find yourself growing anxious about something, ask yourself:
Am I entering into Oreo Cooking Thinking?
Chances are, if you are feeling stressed or upset about something, there’s a strong likelihood you’ve entered into the all-or-nothing quicksand.
No worries — it’s never too late to put down that mental Oreo.
And the great news: if you are flying high and in an easy-peasy mood, it’s likely you’ve picked up a mental bag of Skittles.
The choice is always in our cognitive hands.