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The Problem with Overcorrecting a Mistake

Overcorrection is the swing of the pendulum from one side of an action to another. For example if you asked a question in a college history class, and people laughed at the question you asked, you might get self-conscious enough to choose not ask another question for the rest of the semester. Or if you date a man that is divorced and has kids, but it doesn’t work out, you might make vow to only date men that have never been married and have no children.

Sound like you? If so, you might be overcontrolled (OC). For overcontrolled leaning people, overcorrection is basically making a new “rule” for life when something does NOT go the way we hoped, planned or thought it would. Overcorrecting doesn’t allow time for making errors or self-reflection, because it is a habitual way of responding to making a self-perceived error.

Why Do We Overcorrect?
Most OC leaning people want to get things done properly. They really care about doing the right thing and doing a good job. Most importantly they desire to be seen as social creatures that care about society and other’s needs. They are perfectionists that see mistakes everywhere, and especially in themselves. Overcorrecting is a coping mechanism that starts when an OC person is trying to correct a mistake they made or save themselves from suffering.

What to Do Instead of Overcorrecting
Radically Open DBT (RO DBT) has a great way to deal with overcorrecting.  First off, you have to notice the tendency in oneself to overcorrect. Secondly if you are an overcorrector, you might ask yourself a few questions:

• What am I trying to prevent by overcorrecting?
• What suffering is my new rule trying to stop?
• What could I learn from this experience I disliked?
• Is there a more flexible response that the one I want to choose?

Thirdly, take time to reflect. There is no need to rush into a solution. Yes there is usually a big urge, but if you are OC and biologically have high impulse control, you can urge surf it. That means you can watch the urge without responding to the desire to correct or fix. Give yourself the grace to take a breather before you make a decision.

The Problem with Overcorrecting a Mistake

Hope Arnold

Hope is a Radically Open DBT Senior Clinician and 1-day trainer for Radically Open LTD organization. As a self identified overcontrolled person, she works to help her clients learn to relax, take themselves less seriously and be the person they want to be. Perfectionism, anxiety, rigidity, detailed focus, risk aversion and loneliness are some of the areas that overcontrolled people struggle to navigate. In her writing Hope uses humor and real life stories to help overcontrolled individuals make the changes that will bring happiness to their lives. Hope is licensed as a LCSW in Colorado, Texas, and Virginia. She has a private practice in Denver, Colorado.

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APA Reference
Arnold, H. (2019). The Problem with Overcorrecting a Mistake. Psych Central. Retrieved on July 15, 2020, from


Last updated: 12 Jun 2019
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