The Smothering Blanket of Overgeneralization

In their book Conscious Loving, Gay and Kathlyn Hendricks wrote, “When deeply hurt, your body and mind will overgeneralize, in order to prevent you from hurting that way again.”

Most of us have had an experience along the lines of eating chicken salad that sat out on the picnic table in the sun too long followed by days of most disgusting of icks. After that, our stomachs churn every time we so much as think about chicken salad; all bets are off when we actually see the creamy stuff.

Somehow, our brains aren’t taking into account that we ate chicken salad hundreds of times before that one radioactive batch and fared just fine. In fact, we loved every bite.

Nor do our brains consider that it was actually the undercooked tilapia we had the night before that caused the wretched sick – that food poisoning often percolates for 24-48 hours before unleashing its wrath.

My mom would argue that there’s no excuse for chicken salad anyway but as with chicken salad, so too with people, and that’s where the wicket gets particularly sticky.

One rugged experience with an auto mechanic and your fearful brain might overgeneralize to imagine a whole profession of sloppy con artists.

One gossipy friend and your cautious brain might overgeneralize to imagine there is no one to whom you can entrust your most intimate thoughts.

One distant or absent parent, and your terrified brain might overgeneralize to imagine that no one significant can also be present.

The mechanic was frustrating, no doubt. The gossipy friend was heartbreaking. The absent parent left a foundational scar; I’m not downplaying that.

I am, however, reminding myself and you that if we allow our anxious minds to drape heavy blankets of generalization over our whole lives, we may or may not avoid future disappointment, heartbreak, and scars, yet we all but guarantee missing all of the opportunities to experience just how over those generalizations are.