Dysfunctional Thinking 1 - All or nothing?

This type of thinking totally dominated my (Clarke‘s) mindset for the majority of my life


It became so pervasive that I applied it to things and situations where it really didn't belong, yet I allowed it to affect me and my mood, because I didn't know any other way


What do I mean?


Well, in the morning I would turn on the kettle


Then I would start to unload the dishwasher


And my mind would start to run a very familiar program:


"Hmm, can I unload the dishwasher before the kettle boils?"


"I bet I can"


"Actually, I have to"


"If I don't unload the dishwasher before the kettle boils then I've FAILED"


l would proceed to frantically launch crockery around the kitchen in order to beat the bubbling clock!


This may sound silly to some, yet I must be totally honest (with myself and you), if I didn't beat the kettle then I had LOST. I was a BAD PERSON


How could such a simple and common thought become something so destructive in my own mind?


It has taken years of therapy for me to understand and accept how this came about


I was brought up in a very strict household. My siblings and I were encouraged to work hard and achieve, and compliments came with that.


We were also disciplined harshly when we stepped out of line. Dad was the authoritative figure and his say was final, his mood dominated and it was his approval that we sought. He spent a lot of time in his room and, seemingly, only ever emerged to either congratulate or chastise.


(I say 'seemingly' because this was my perspective on the situation. It was how I perceived it with my child's mind, and the meaning that I drew from it)


So Dad's appearance in the front room room led to one critical thought, had I been Good or Bad?


I know what I wanted, I know what I needed, and so this notion dominated my thoughts in all that I did.


I then worked in an industry that compounded this notion.


Professional sport does not have a 'middle ground'. You are in the team, or you are out, you win or you lose, you are a success or you are a failure.


All day every day, you are conditioned to win at all costs, give everything that you have to the cause, to the detriment of all else, in order to WIN


These 2 things in tandem meant that I applied this obsessive perfectionism to my entire life.


So any notion of imperfection wasn't acceptable


Not making that tackle - unacceptable


Not winning that match - unacceptable


Not getting to my destination before Satnav's estimated time - unacceptable


Not getting my wrapper in the bin first time - unacceptable


It went deeper


If I had an argument with a friend or girlfriend then that relationship was blemished, no longer perfect, it was over


If I had a disagreement with a manager then my time at that club was blemished, imperfect, it was over


The really troubling thing about all of this is that it happened in my brain without me knowing it


It wasn't a debate that I had with myself, or a discussion that I had with a friend or family member. It was an instantaneous conclusion that was FACT and unchangeable


It blew my mind when, in C.A.T. (Cognitive Analytical Therapy), I discovered that I could change this thought process


In order to change it, I had to know it was happening and understand where it came from


My childhood and my work had created a psyche where EVERYTHING was Good or Bad and, in doing something Good or Bad, I became a Good or Bad person


I now know that this isn't true because I have learnt 2 things:


• I know that my job is what I do, not who I am


• I know that my parents and my wife love me UNCONDITIONALLY


Taking these on board have allowed me to change my thinking


First of all, I want to be successful in my work, but it doesn't define my value as a man


My work persona is only one facet of me. I am also a son, a father, a brother, a husband, a friend, a colleague and a member of my community. All of these roles have a value and it is the total of these that define me as a man


Secondly, I do not have to earn love and affection from those who matter in my life. I mistakenly believed that I was earning Dad's love as a child, yet this wasn't the case. He loves me no matter what, as does Mum, as do my wife and children.


Knowing this allows me to be less than perfect in my own calculations

because I am still loved, and so I am contented when I give all that I can


So, over to you:


Is there a 'middle ground' in your perception of yourself and situations?


If so, is it an acceptable place to be?


Is there a belief structure that underpins your perspective on your life and your achievements?


If so, is it a rational and proportionate one?


Take some time to understand the scale by which you measure your life and those around you, it doesn't just help you unload the dishwasher calmly and safely!



Recent Posts

See All

Dysfunctional Thinking 4 - Mind Reading

I never cease to be amazed when I see someone like Derren Brown or David Blaine. There’s something about the initials DB that means you have the ability to Delve into a person’s Brain (I might start a