So I may have mentioned before that during my time meeting with a therapist it became clear that I have a natural ‘all or nothing’ thinking style. This particular thinking style basically means what it says; in my mind things can only have two ends of the scale all at one end or nothing at the other end. I mentioned in a previous post about the contribution this thinking style has had on my anxiety trouble but recently my anxiety has been lessening – panic attacks becoming more rare and feelings of anxiety for the everyday is becoming almost non-existent. I became aware of this recently and began to feel a sense of triumph – perhaps I had beaten this thing; got rid of my problem, the struggles that haunt me – perhaps I really had begun to live a life. I felt confident about life for the first time in years things were looking up. In my time of triumph, though, I had missed something;I had missed the ever so subtle signs of my all or nothing brain creeping into my thoughts,creeping into my dreams, creeping into my views of the future. I hadn’t noticed them early enough this time – I had been distracted by focusing on my triumph over anxiety.
In the early days of therapy; in discovering this thinking style I used to combat an ‘extreme’ thought of negativity with a simple claim: it’s just my all or nothing brain talking’. It was a simple claim but it spoke truth against the lies that my brain was convincing me of. I haven’t used that claim in a while; instead I allowed all the thoughts to seep in undetected; these thoughts were going to begin to drown me again.
My anxiety free life was giving me more scope to live a life; the ability to go and do things; to be someone I wanted to be – to go after something of my own. It was extending my life into new areas – areas that were undiscovered to me. The trouble is my all or nothing brain followed me there; it made me look back it made me believe I was no longer giving my all to other things in my life and if I wasn’t giving my all than I simply must be giving nothing – I was failing.
As humans we are great; we are adaptable beings; we have the ability to take on multiple roles in life; increasingly our society asks this of us more and more: be a friend; be an employee; be a spouse; be a parent; be a volunteer; be someone with a hobby; be healthy – the list goes on. I don’t think it’s wrong or impossible to be all these things rolled up in one person but for someone with an all or nothing brain it does become extremely difficult. You see I want, no I need to, put my all into all of these roles. I have to give a 100% to being a friend but if I do that then I’m giving 0% as a mother; I have to give 100% as an employee but that means I only give 0% to my spouse. Wherever I put my all it means I’m failing in every other area of my life. This is where my all or nothing brain bought me back to the feeling of inadequacy; failure; an inability to ever succeed in life because the only way to keep being who I wanted to be and doing the things I wanted to do meant I had to give only a portion of myself to everything. This idea of portion (grey area) for an all or nothing thinker doesn’t really exist so therefore it simply meant I was giving 0% – nothing of worth or value – to anything.
(Simply typing this I can see how stupid and incorrect this is; how much of a lie my thinking is feeding me yet it still has a hold – I’m sitting here feeling as though I am failing my family because I am spending my time writing this but a couple of days ago I felt I was failing at this whole blog thing because I hadn’t spent anytime doing this. My frustration with my self is growing even now.)
But then what…….
Then it means I’m waiting for a call from a social worker everyday – that they will state that I am an unfit mother because the girls haven’t had their five-a -day; or because they’ve only had one bath in the last 4 days; or because they’ve spent way to much in front of a screen; or because they’ve had oven chips and peas with their dinner 3 nights in a row because it’s quick and easy. No I need to give 100% of my time to my girls because I don’t want to be an unfit mum – I love my girls and i want to give them the best – the 100% best of me!
But then what…….
Then it means the house is left unclean, in a mess, dirty washing unwashed and clean washing unhung, the draining board stacked high with washing up; the bathroom sink with toothpaste stains from last week and then unmade beds for a month. No that’s not acceptable; that’s dirty, unclean and will be viewed as lazy. Nope I must put 100% in cleaning the house and taking care of the house.
But then what…..
Then it means I have no time for friends; if I have no time for friends they will give up on me, stop being interested in my life, stop trying to meet and then drop out of my life altogether. No-one will want to be a friend because I have no time to be their friend and what use is a friend who has no time. I can’t do that friends are important, people are important. I need to drop everything else and prioritize friends I need to give them 100%.
But then what…..
Then it means my clients and my business fails because I haven’t given them enough time – not met their deadlines. They’ve found someone else who could do it better and quicker; someone who would give them 100% all the time! I don’t want to let that happen so I must put in 100%.
Then I am back where I began. Giving 0% to everything when I want to give 100%.
There is no such thing as 20% or 30% or 60% in my mind I feel as though it’s all crumbling – my priorities are mixed and jumbled I care about all of my roles I want to give them all 100% but I can’t. It becomes overwhelming and exhausting. I’m frustrated with myself and that frustration so easily comes out of me towards others.
I can’t do it all but I don’t want to be nothing either. The greatest challenge of all this is creating the grey areas; what are acceptable grey areas? How can I split my 100% into equal amounts so that I can do my best with what I have. If 100% is all I have it needs to be shared and I need to find a way to do this.
I don’t as yet have an answer but I do know that acknowledging it and knowing of it’s existence is a good start to fighting the untruths it feeds me.