This is one of "22
virus definitions" (thought-mistakes that cause ineffectiveness
and unnecessary negative emotions).
YOU use the antivirus
for the mind, you usually dont need to know all the
possible thought-mistakes. You can just be reasonable and really
look at your statements, and even if you dont know exactly
whats wrong, you can tell when something isnt right
about your explanations.
But its worth reading through this list of thought-mistakes
and their descriptions. If nothing else, it will give you a clear
general idea of what thought-mistakes are.
Oversimplifying is a very broad mistake,
and it can show up in many different ways. One way is labeling
others. If you meet someone and he seems kind of awkward, you
may think to yourself, Hes a nerd.
He may be kind to strangers, take care
of his mother, have a fascinating hobby, have a rich and varied
emotional and intellectual life, but you have made the mistake
of oversimplifying by giving him a single label to sum up a single
facet of his complex personality. Its not fair and its
not correct and if you make this mistake under certain conditions
it can cause depression, anxiety, or anger unnecessarily.
Al Seibert, the author of The Survivor Personality, says labeling is
turning people into nouns, which is a childs way
of thinking. It limits understanding. It strips away what is
unique about an individual and restricts the mind of the beholder
to inaccurate generalizations.
Seibert is concerned with what makes a
good survivor. And he has found: A more effective way to
view people, and one that allows better understanding, is to
assume that every person is more complex, unpredictable, and
unique than any label.
Another way to oversimplify is to tell
someone else their motivation. For example, John bought flowers
for Jeanne partly because he felt guilty for staying so late
at the office, partly because he just loves her and knows she
likes flowers, and partly because he enjoys how her mood perks
up when she has flowers in a vase sitting on the table. But she
gets the flowers and says, Youre just giving me these
because you feel guilty.
Jeannes statement is an oversimplification,
and so to that degree, it is inaccurate. But the emotions she
feels will be in response to the oversimplification rather than
to the real (more complex) situation.
It may be simpler and easier in some ways
to oversimplify, but often it makes for bad feelings that are
totally unnecessary and unsuitable to the real situation.
See the complete list of definitions: The 22 Virus Definitions.