Polarized thinking is automatic and makes us generalize situations without stopping to examine them first. People who think this way usually say things like “I never do anything right” or “I always end up losing”.
Polarized thinking is a cognitive distortion. In other words, it’s a reasoning mistake we make without realizing it. It makes us process information incorrectly and this leads to emotional distress.
Cognitive distortions were described by Albert Ellis and Aaron Beck. In general, they’re misconceptions that lead to dysfunctional emotional states. This includes irrational fears, feeling sad for no reason, etc. Polarized thinking is one of many forms of cognitive distortion.
Polarized thinking is an extreme simplification of reality. Things are either black or white, good or bad. We don’t see the nuances that exist between one extreme and another. People with this type of distortion feel comfortable placing reality between two extremes. Why does it happen? How do we beat it? Let’s take a look.