All or Nothing Thinking

Using flower essences to overcome perceptual extremes.

“all or nothing” thinking

  1. inability to find a middle ground in perceiving others and situations; things are either all bad or all good, all difficult or all simple, etc.
  2. thinking in terms of false dilemmas

All or nothing thinking is a phrase used to describe a perceptual foundation that is anchored in extremes. It is the inability to find a middle ground in perceiving situations or other people. There are many causes for this foundational disharmony. Being raised in a dysfunctional family or having one or more important role models who had extreme interpretations of situations and people are two of them. It can also be the result of being raised in a religious background that taught rigid interpretations that caused a foundation of extremes. Also, if you are addicted to adrenaline, you might easily engage in all or nothing thinking as a normal part of living.

If you catch yourself interpreting the situations and people in your life using the words, always, never, or every, you might be prone to all or nothing thinking. For instance, when you think of a particular person, do you say, “She always creates problems for me.”? Or, “He never likes what I am wearing.” Or, “Every time I go to the bank I always have to wait in line for a long time.” There are just a few examples of thoughts you may have that are not necessarily true and are extreme perceptions of reality.

Following are a few examples of different types of all or nothing thinking and some flower essences that can change this foundation of perception.

All Good or All Bad

Let’s say that someone has voiced an opinion about something and you don’t agree. From your perspective, they are wrong. You do not take into consideration that every person has their own set of experiences that illustrate shades of grey in a matter that you think is simply black or white. Because your own experiences have not been the same, you discount that others’ considerations and life experiences could result in different conclusions.

Crown of Thorns flower essence is helpful to ease this type of all or nothing perception. It is for those who conclude that everything is either good or bad. This flower essence helps allow your perception to go beyond defining everything in life as either good or bad and people as being wholly good or wholly bad depending upon their association with them. The essence can help you see shades of grey instead of black and white in every situation.

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This is the essence of choice for those of us who are caught up in believing in good and bad or negative and positive. Whatever we judge becomes the way we see it. We empower every event in life according to the judgments we make about them. We experience people according to how we see them. People are not their words and actions. Their essential nature is the same as ours. Crown of Thorns can help us move out of a dualistic view of life to one of unconditional love and acceptance.

The essence can create a foundation for a more compassionate view of others and even of yourself.

I saw a great example of the pattern of Crown of Thorns thinking recently in a TV reality show. A couple had met and fallen in love. It was obvious that they were truly in love but the woman was having difficulty with something from her boyfriend’s past.

He was a very athletic person who had spent the past ten years building a business based upon athletic nutrition. But more than ten years previously he had been an exotic dancer for a period of time. His girlfriend found the idea repulsive because, she said, “I am a very conservative person.” The fact that he had engaged in this dancing in his past was threatening to overpower all the wonderful connections that they had.

This is the type of situation in which Crown of Thorns could be helpful. The flower essence helps you change viewing and labeling everything as good or bad, and even judging yourself for being close to “bad” things. It is possible to see exotic dancing as an athletic and artistic expression of sensuality requiring skill and not necessarily as a nasty thing. And let’s face it, we have all done things that in retrospect we would not have done. Crown of Thorns can show you that it is more important to see what an experience fostered in someone rather than the fact that they engaged in it.

No Middle Ground

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One client of mine said that she realized that she had no concept of a middle ground when it came to certain physical things. Upon arriving home, she would either turn all the lights on in her home or she would shut them all off. She did not seem to be able to grasp the concept that she could turn a few of the lights on in a room if that was all she needed and leave them off in a room that she wasn’t using. In the same way, if she opened a bag of chips, she would eat the whole thing and then feel physically uncomfortable. It did not naturally occur to her that she could eat just a few and close up the bag for another time. Moderation was not part of her perceptual foundation and it resulted in physical discomfort.

What is common to all types of all or nothing thinking is the inability to find a middle ground. As it relates to physical self-care, Hedgehog Cactus is excellent for overcoming this tendency. This flower essence supports you in finding the difference between two dysfunctional extremes, overindulgence and neglect, or too much versus not enough. It is the solution in the examples I mentioned above about turning on the appropriate number of lights in the house and how many chips to eat to feel nurtured instead of physically overwhelmed. Hedgehog Cactus flower essence can help you find moderation, the antidote to perceptions that are extreme.

Adrenaline Addiction

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As all or nothing thinking relates to feeling able to handle life, Windflower can be a helpful flower essence. You may go throughout your day feeling on top of it all at one moment and depleted the next. Windflower can help you find a middle ground of balance.

This pattern of living has become all too prevalent in modern life and often indicates a tendency to be addicted to adrenaline. Those who were raised in dysfunctional families probably became used to living in a hyper vigilant state of being, prepared for the next intense situation that might befall them. Hyper vigilance requires a great amount of adrenaline, which is released from the adrenals and keeps you aware and poised to deal with an impending crisis. The more you live in this state, the more the cells of your body come to expect this awareness-invoking drug.

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I have found that using first Indian Root flower essence for a period of four weeks followed by Windflower for a period of two weeks can break this cycle of dependence on excess adrenaline. Indian Root flower essence helps release the cellular effects of adrenaline, a necessary step before starting to use Windflower.

Windflower is the flower essence that helps establish balance in your system. It helps you find that living in a state of peace is not boring, but rather evokes a state of desirable equilibrium. Long-term adrenaline addicts might never have experienced this state of being and need to learn that living in a state of balance can enhance their experience of life. When everything has been all or nothing, a high energy state or a state of deflation, it can be a new world discovering that energy can be metered out in moderation creating sustainable longevity. Living in equilibrium can help you make decisions based upon clearly supportive choices rather than being pressured into life decisions under duress.

Making Problems

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Cane Cholla Cactus can be important to coming out of all or nothing thinking. This is a flower essence that often comes up for highly intelligent folks who like solving problems. They unconsciously create problems so that they can solve them and feel a greater sense of self-worth. This is a type of all or nothing thinking that can at first seem a bit cryptic.

The Cane Cholla Cactus person tends to define situations in their daily life as problems or difficulties, which actually blocks other ways of seeing. It is an automatic tendency to find a problem, grapple with it, and then use a great amount of intellectual energy to solve it.

One example was shown by one of my clients. Her babysitter needed to suddenly to see her doctor, leaving my client without her usual support for getting her daughter from school to an after-school event. My client had an important deposition she needed to attend at the same time that her daughter needed to get to her event. In hindsight, my client could laugh as she saw all the different and impossible solutions she thought about in attempting to solve this problem, including canceling the long-awaited deposition that had required coordinating seven different persons schedules.

Fortunately, she was using Cane Cholla Cactus at the time and caught herself in the act of her intellectual struggle. About an hour into her dilemma, she realized that she was looking at the situation all wrong. It wasn’t a problem that needed solving but rather a project that she could handle. With this new perspective, she began calling several parents whose children were going to the same after-school event and found one who was happy to transport her daughter.

This is the gift of Cane Cholla Cactus, helping you change the way you perceive situations from problems into projects. It helps you let go of the need to struggle with things and let your mind leap to a new perspective.

Giving In To the Old Patterns

Whatever the source of your all or nothing thinking, using flower essences can help you let go of the extreme perceptions and find something new: moderation. However, it is easy to sometimes be enticed back into the old patterns of perceiving. Whitethorn flower essence can help you if you see the old patterns and understand them with your mind, but you find that you are are not yet fully letting them go. Even when it is your intention to do so, you give in to the pattern again.

Whitethorn flower essence can effect a shift within so that you begin to see yourself as your own best friend.

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We can be too entangled in how we think things really are, which prevents our seeing how they could be. The freshness and newness that comes with this flower essence helps us get out of old ruts, freeing ourselves for innovation.

Selecting the Most Appropriate Flower Essences

Not every flower essence mentioned above will be appropriate for every person’s specific needs. Usually, careful self-examination can clearly show you which of the above flower essences are most appropriate for you.

Though you can use more than one flower essence together, you probably will not need to use all of the ones mentioned here. After contemplating your relationship to this issue, select the flower essences that apply for you, or use an intuitive method to select among them. (For more information on how to do this, see The Art & Technique of Using Flower Essences.) A general guideline is to use four drops at a time, four times a day, in water. However, it is fine to follow your intuition and use them as often as you like. Most people find that they tend to use them more often in the beginning and less often towards the end of the cycle. Unless otherwise indicated, a cycle is usually two to four weeks. [more]

For information on how to clearly evaluate the effects of the essences you have used, see The Art & Technique of Using Flower Essences.

Recommended Flower Essences

Cane Cholla Cactus
tendency to automatically see events as all bad, as difficult problems
Crown of Thorns
engaging in black and white thinking; judging everything and everyone as all bad or all good
Hedgehog Cactus
for all or nothing thinking about physical self-nurturance; inability to find the difference between overindulgence and neglect
Indian Root
use for 4 weeks, followed by Windflower for 2 weeks – for adrenaline addiction, which is often at the root of all or nothing thinking; perceiving situations as difficult or even dangerous so that the body releases adrenaline to be prepared to handle them; living in a state of hyper vigilance due to dysfunctional family patterns
Whitethorn
re-engaging in the pattern of all or nothing thinking, even when you understand with your mind that you want to let them go
Windflower
feeling on top of it all at one moment and depleted the next; all or nothing energy