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Correcting Overgeneralization and COME AND GET IT by Kiley Reid

Cover of the book Come and Get it by Kiley Reid teaching the therapy skill of correcting overgeneralization

The beginning of Kennedy’s college experience was fun and full of friendship, and it was pretty positive. Then, she experienced a trauma that provoked friends to reject her, leaving Kennedy isolated and lonely. As Kennedy’s anxiety grew, her ability to engage in college life plummeted. It all became too much, and Kennedy transferred to a new school, the University of Arkansas, hoping for a fresh start.


Unfortunately, Kennedy entered U of A carrying all the insecurities she’d previously developed. Whenever everyday social slights occurred, Kennedy became flooded by all the feelings associated with her old school. Kennedy had overgeneralized the problems she experienced at her old school into her new environment. Her basic thought process was, “At my first college, I made a mistake, and people rejected me. Therefore, all college students dislike me, even those who don’t know about me or my past.”


Overgeneralization, making broad assumptions based on limited experience, is a common cognitive distortion that can lead to depression and anxiety. But fortunately, it is also relatively easy to counter. Here are some tips to correct overgeneralized thoughts:


Check the Facts: Examine the data that refutes your generalized thoughts. Is there a mountain of evidence, or just one or two points supporting your overall conclusion? What other ways could the facts could be interpreted?


Look for Exceptions: What experiences disprove or counter your over-generalized thoughts? Pay attention to shades of gray moments.


Listen to A Cheerleader Voice:  If you had your own personal cheerleader – a best friend or family member who always saw the good in you – how would they describe the situation? What facts would they highlight? What perspective would they add?  What grace would they give you?


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