"Rigid thinking occurs when an individual is unable to consider alternatives to the current situation, alternative viewpoints or innovative solutions to a problem. Rigid thinkers cling tightly to preconceptions and generalizations, and often react with fear or hostility in the face of unexpected change or challenges." www.ehow.com
Wow, this is the story of my life. I have had several conversations recently with a few different people about rigid thinking, and I've come to a conclusion. The happiest people in life are those that are able to adapt to change, let go of their expectations, and deal with each day as it comes. That is, essentially, the complete opposite of rigid thinking.
It wasn't until CBT/ERP that I discovered my struggle with, and virtual stranglehold by, this very destructive cognitive distortion. I suspect everyone fights this to some degree, or at least in some areas of their life. However, my existence was literally choked by it. It fueled my perfectionism, anxiety, frustration, and anger. Time and again I would discuss a scenario with my psychologist and explain to her how I was stuck between two bad outcomes, only to have her suggest an alternative that had never occurred to me. More times than not, I would marvel at the simple and unbelievably straightforward other possibility that I had never even considered. I would walk out of her office and think to myself, "How in the world did I not come up with that obvious idea on my own?!" Rigid thinking. All or nothing thinking. Polarized thinking. Call it what you like, but it all has the same result. An inflexibility that keeps us locked in the prison of our minds.
Like everything else in my world these days, this is a work in progress, but I have come a very long way. Whenever I feel cornered or threatened by a situation, I recognize that it can become a playground for rigid thinking. So I try to slow my mind down. I pray. I seek guidance from people whom I know are capable of seeing the bigger picture. I no longer rush to solve the problem instantly, so I can avoid making decisions out of fear. Sometimes, issues completely resolve themselves, because I no longer react in a panic before things have "played out."
If you are interested in working on rigid thinking, I found a helpful article entitled "Five Brain Exercises to Foster Flexible Thinking" at Gaiam Life.
Oh, and in case you are wondering, I believe flexible thinking is a Biblical concept. See below what Paul has to say about dealing with his circumstances in life. Sounds pretty flexible to me!
I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through Him who gives me strength. Philippians 4:11-13 NIV