Mental Flip-Flop: My All or Nothing Tendencies

Reading Time: 8 Minutes

In previous posts I touched upon what I refer to as my All or Nothing patterns of thought and/or behavior. An alternative title I give to this pattern is flip-flopping – when something doesn’t seem to be working one way for me, or even if something is not going well, I have the tendency to then throw all of my weight behind whatever the opposite is of that. When using this term, I also include such instances in which I severely restrict or purposely block certain aspects of my life, simply because I think that by cutting them off, this will be a sure fire way to end up at the destination I visualize for myself in the future.

Typically this All or Nothing pattern has shown up in my romantic relationships or more generally, my attitude towards romance and/or dating. The more I thought about this pattern, though, I began to realize that it actually shows up in other areas of my life.

One instance would be my views on dating. I previously wrote of how my experience with dating men had gone so poorly, having allowed myself to interact with such low-vibrational men, that I flip-flopped to the complete opposite end of the spectrum – I swore off men altogether. No man I was dating was good, therefore the majority of men probably also stunk. Therein and of itself was reasonable enough logic to pluck myself out of the dating pool/game/whatever it is you want to call it for the remainder of my days.

Not reasonable logic at all, as I now recognize and feel confident in pointing out – quite irrational, and restricting if you think about it.

One other notable instance, which I have confided in my therapist about, is that I don’t feel I should enter another relationship until I have “all of my shit figured out”. Coming from a place of being in a relationship and realizing the extent of what I had to work on emotionally, meant that once I was out of that relationship, I swore off striking up a new relationship until I had worked out the kinks, ruts and by-products of my detrimental thinking and emotional immaturity.

I told Karla (my therapist) that I didn’t want to date until I was sure I was prepared to handle my emotions, the reactions that are a result of my emotions, and emotional by-products such as abandonment issues, irrational feelings of guilt and making myself emotionally smaller (all of which I have previously discussed on this site). I told her I was almost afraid to enter another relationship because I knew select emotional reactions and patterns of thinking that have a tendency to emerge when I’m in a romantic relationship, would certainly arise. My logic was, why should I subject someone else to them, if i’m ill-equipped or unprepared to handle them myself? It didn’t seem fair to a potential partner.

While All or Nothing patterns of thought and behavior could be deemed unhealthy, unpredictable or irrational, I think at the core of my own behavior and thinking is a defense mechanism – a wall I put up as a result of someone else’s behavior hurting me (keeping others out) or my own detrimental behavior towards someone else (keeping myself closed in). I don’t wish to be bamboozled by immature men but I also don’t wish for my emotional immaturity to hurt or cause injury to the men I date.

I have always been the type of person when once I have made a mistake or done something wrong, i’ll remember not to do it again. Of course, you could simply label me as a fast learner, as obedient, as quick to try to make amends. However, I would classify this as a form of All or Nothing behavior – a mistake is an error and therefore, I must wholesomely try my best to never make the same mistake again. I muse as to if my logic for not wanting to enter another relationship (I like how I make it sound as easy as walking to the grocery store or going to a doctor’s appointment) is unconsciously because my patterns of behavior are something which I haven’t learned how not to do, or have the ability to stop.

Look – I know there is power in recognizing what you can and cannot control and you can only control what you can, but it’s truly SO much easier said than done. I’m not there yet in terms of knowing how or being able to curve my emotional immaturity which pops up in my relationships. I certainly think i’m on the right path, in terms of acquiring the mental tools and skills to be able to do so. But at this point in time, they are not something I can promise i’ll never do again. So it’s possible, in the back of my mind, I think it’s best to just eliminate a situation in which they may potentially occur, altogether.

This All or Nothing pattern of thinking and behaving also applies to my goals and dreams. In recent years, I have wanted to experience living in another country. A while back I had my sights set on going on an African safari for my 30th birthday. Now I have shifted back to wanting to live in another country – more specifically, my plan is to move elsewhere in 2022. I can visit Africa on vacation anytime (well … within reason). I feel like living in another country for an extended period of time, becomes a bit more difficult when you add a partner and/or kids into the mix. I’d rather do it while I am not tied down.

Initially I didn’t want to date anyone between now and then because I didn’t want a potential relationship to interfere with my goal – a goal which I am 100% certain I will regret not doing when I am older.Once again, you could say I am engaging in flip-flopping behavior – completely cutting out one part of my life for the sake of breathing life into another to ensure that it happens (or at least in my mind, ensure that it happens). Knowing my younger self as it is in this moment, I know that my older self will pine for a time when I was young, able-bodied, free of a partner or children, reliant on my own wealth and self and was able to do what I wanted.

That being said, amidst my own self-exploration and in conversations with others, I realized I can’t live in the future – nor can I place certain aspects of my life on hold for the sake of guaranteeing other aspects. If the goal is meant to be, and if it’s something I really, truly want, it will happen, regardless of if I block out certain parts of my life or not. Might as well enjoy all that life has to offer in the meantime.

I find it interesting to be writing this post about shutting myself out of dating and/or a relationship, considering the amount I talk of “entering a relationship” on this site. You would think based upon the amount of energy I focus on writing about said topic, that must be the very thing I want. This is not entirely the case. While technically we are still in the midst of a pandemic, and as such, dating is a bit of a question mark, it’s been a great time to explore my single self and habits, and learning to be more flexible (and less flip-floppy) in my attitude and perspective towards dating.

Case in point, I went on a date last Monday. It completely tanked. Within the first 5 minutes of being on it, I wanted it to end. Not only was he not at all what I expected but he was 15 minutes late, leaving me to awkwardly stand outside the ice cream shop we were due to meet at, squinting at random men through my sunglasses. He also didn’t eat his ice cream fast enough, to the point it was melting all over his hand – I thought it was gross, but whatever.

Karla helped me realize that I can, in fact, date people, while still working on myself. It’s more important to continue the process of learning, failing, getting back up again and carrying on, than to full stop altogether (which is what I thought I should do). I went on a date – I tried, it failed. But that doesn’t mean I should stop dating cold turkey because that one guy was icky or because in a year and a half I’ll be saying sayonara to Canada. Therapy has helped me (and continues to help me) in terms of dispelling and breaking down irrational patterns of thought and/or behavior, compounded by other irrational patterns of thought and/or behavior. Not only that, but it’s helped me to realize, a truly understanding, kind and helpful partner, will be there through the tough times, when I can’t seem to get a grip on my emotional concerns. They will also understand that they don’t expect me to be perfect, but understand I am doing my best to be the best version of myself for them.

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