Oreo Cookie Thinking

The anxiety-driven thought process that isn’t good for anyone.

Oreo Cookie Thinking only feeds anxiety.

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

Taste the rainbow of wonderful possibility with Skittles Thinking.

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.

The Unspoken Struggle

There is a silent but desperate pain in many teens and tweens in our 21st century world

As a writing teacher, I have the bittersweet gift and responsibility that comes with reading the many hidden thoughts of tweens and teens. An English teacher is often informally consigned to the role of therapist, a safe repository of one’s typically dormant insights. While a significant number of students’ essays contain innocuous content, there are sometimes those red flags that require I share my concern with the school psychologist. Unfortunately, I’m seeing an uptick in red flags.

Since the pandemic, we know there’s been a rise in mental health concern. According to MedScape (www.medscape.com), depression symptoms have “jumped threefold, overdose deaths…increased in 40 states, and 25% of young adults have suicidal ideation.”

It is no surprise then that our adolescents are demonstrating an increase in anxiety and depression as well. This past week, I’d assigned my students the following prompt:

“Write about a time when you have felt or experienced a struggle in your life. Did it resolve? If so, how? If not, why?”

Regardless of ability (i.e. ELL learners, GT students and everything in between), my students were eager to write about their struggles. They were also hungry to be heard. Shortly after posting the assignment, a barrage of emails appeared with the following inquiries:

“This really helps. Can we do more of these prompts?”

“I normally hate writing, but I like this assignment. Can I do more than one?”

“I have a pretty big struggle. Would it be okay if I shared it with our class?”

There’s a sense of safety in writing, in getting our thoughts out onto the page. Writing also creates an immediate sense of being heard—even if it’s just for an audience of one—YOU!

Several of my “red flag” essays end with a request to not share their anxious thoughts and/or depression with anyone. They write of observed or experienced domestic abuse, estranged parents, gender uncertainty, cancer, the loss of a loved one, and bullying. The overarching emotion that binds them is a sense that they are alone and unworthy.

I want to hug each of these students. Instead, I tell them the truth: they are courageous for sharing their stories and they matter.