…. Rainy days and Mondays always get me down. – The Carpenters, 1971
It’s not a Monday, but I woke up to a rainy day in Northern VA, with the line, “rainy days and Mondays always get me down” running through my head. Composed by Roger Nichols and Paul Williams, The Carpenters’ recording of Rainy Days and Mondays went to #2 on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart in 1971. It went to #1 in my head this morning when I woke up to a dismal sky and steady rain. Guess what word was emphasized in my mind? Always – as in rainy days always get me down.
In a recent moment of motherly frustration, I advised my husband that our daughter never begins her home school day on time (as determined by me). My morning assessment of rainy days and my late night assessment of my daughter’s work ethic share something in common: each is an example of a distorted thinking pattern called over-generalization. We over-generalize when we make universal rules or laws out of single facts and fail to prove our rules or test our laws.
A habit of over-generalization causes our universe of daily options to shrink. If rainy days always get me down, I have no other possible outcome for today. If my daughter never starts her studies on time, I am destined to always be frustrated. But what happens if I test my rule about rainy days? I find that it is untrue! In fact, I have lived through plenty of rainy days without feeling down, and today is rather pleasant. What about my law of home school tardiness? It is honestly untrue as stated. What’s the broader truth? My daughter has been tardy of late, but she started studies much earlier the previous two years. Gradually, I begin to see more home school possibilities.
Does a habit of overgeneralization ever shrink your universe of daily options? It might if your statements or thoughts include words like: always (I’m always late), never (I’m never on time), everyone (Everyone thinks I’m weird), no one ( No one likes me) , all (All dogs are mean). Here’s another example: you delete a file from your computer, and you immediately become an idiot. If you recognize this bothersome habit, it may be time to test your universal rules. For example, if you seek evidence concerning the universe of dogs, consult the owner of a retired greyhound or an adopted coonhound.