The #1 Tool for Challenging All or Nothing Thinking

Photo by pawel szvmanski on Unsplash
With me it's all er nuthin'
Is it all er nuthin' with you?
It cain't be "in between"
It cain't be "now and then"
No half and half romance will do!

- Lyrics by Richard Rodgers, from the musical Oklahoma!

When I was in the sixth grade, my class staged a production of the musical Oklahoma!

It’s amazing the things that stick with you when you learn them at a young age. 23 years later, I still remember (basically) all the lyrics from the show. 

Which brings me to this week’s blog post on All or Nothing thinking, a type of cognitive distortion that you NEED to know about. There’s a song in Oklahoma! called All ‘er Nuthin’ (see above), which – of course – inspired the yee-haw theme of today’s post. So if you’re thirstin’ for all the knowledge, read on, cowgirl!


Are you a person who struggles with all or nothing thinking? (Also known as black or white thinking.)

All or nothing thinking is a type of cognitive distortion, occurring in our automatic thoughts. It involves seeing things in absolute terms. When engaging with all or nothing thinking, the words “always” and “never” are common.

Some Oklahoma!-esque examples:

“I’m always so awkward at these box socials, and everyone kin see it!”

“My partner and I gotta be in sync 100 percent of the time, otherwise, we ain’t meant to be gettin’ hitched!”

“Unless I get the finest Surrey With a Fringe on Top money can kin buy, Ado Annie ain’t never gonna be my wife.”

It’s not abnormal to experience all or nothing distortions in our thoughts. In fact, some of you reading this right now may be thinking:

“Yikes! I do this! Like, ALL (or nothing) the time!”

If this is you, fear not. If the light bulb just went off in your brain, if something just clicked, you’re in the right place.

I want to give you access to one of the most important, powerful tools for addressing all or nothing thinking there is. You might say this is Strategy #1. And that strategy, is (drum roll)…


What is mindfulness? Contrary to what some have been led to believe, mindfulness is not about is not about “wiping out” negative thoughts, “clearing” or “emptying” your mind. Instead, mindfulness is about waking up to the present moment and allowing it to exist as it is with non-judgment and acceptance.

Want to know more about mindfulness? I wrote all about it here.

But right now, consider this: If you aren’t aware of your automatic thoughts, you cannot challenge them. Which is why the foundational mindfulness piece is oh-so important. Using this tool, you will begin to notice and identify all or nothing thinking as it arises in the wild west of your brain.

If you’re new to the mindfulness rodeo, starting with a guided audio mindfulness meditation is an ideal place for you to start.

Eight Minutes to Calm: My Free Guided Audio Meditation Delivered to Your Inbox Today!

I’ll be sharing a number of additional strategies for addressing cognitive distortions in the coming weeks (so hold your horses!), but right now, I want you to do THREE things for me:

1) click on the link above & enter your info

2) open your free audio mediation when it arrives in your inbox

3) commit to practicing it at least three times this week. If you can commit to doing it once a day, that’s even better.

Are you all signed up and ready to commit to the first steps of your amazing mindfulness journey? Comment below and tell me your mindfulness mediation goal this week. Let’s all cheer each other on.


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This site is for informational purposes only. It isn’t intended to diagnose or treat any mental health problems and is not intended as psychological advice.
© 2022 Gina Davis, PsyD. All rights reserved.

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