Mindreading, Catastrophizing, and Five Other Thoughts That Will Drive You Crazy!
“When it is not in our power to determine what is true, we ought to follow what is most probable.” ― René Descartes
Your thoughts have a direct influence on how you feel. If you have distorted thought processes, you will suffer needlessly with anxiety, anger, depression and low self-esteem. Here are seven distorted thinking patterns and how you can learn to think more rationally about yourself and your world:
1) Mindreading. Mind readers make assumptions about how other people are feeling and what motivates them. Mind readers jump to conclusions that are based on hunches that seem right but there is no evidence to back them up. For instance, “They are getting ready to fire me.”, may originate from the boss not returning your phone call fast enough.
2) Catastrophizing. These are thoughts that are full of worse case scenarios. These thoughts expect bad things and disasters to occur. They usually start with the words “What if….?” If you have a big imagination and a negative mindset you will have an infinite list of things to worry about.
3) Filtering. This process involves focusing on one element of a situation and excluding everything else. The positive aspects tend to be deleted and the negative ones are magnified. You may filter out the present realities and focus on the negative and painful events of the past.
4) Overgeneralization. This distortion makes broad conclusions based on a small piece of evidence or a single incident. If something bad happens you conclude it will happen every time. For instance, if you go through a heart break, you conclude that you will never find love. If you have trouble finding a partner you may conclude that there are no good men or women available. If you get betrayed in a relationship, you might conclude that all women or men are cheaters.
“There’s no evidence whatsoever that men are more rational than women. Both sexes seem to be equally irrational.” ~ Albert Ellis
5) Polarized Thinking. These thoughts are black and white and demand that there are no shades of gray. Everything is an extreme in which everything is either good or bad; or right or wrong. This sets you up to be very critical of yourself and others because you have such ridiculously high standards.
6) Personalization. People who think this way tend to relate everything to their personal story. They think that what others do or say is somehow a reaction to them. They make events involve them when in fact it may have nothing to do with them. This commonly involves the person comparing themselves to others. Am I better or am I worse? This is another one of those never ending processes that steal any hope of peace of mind.
7) Should. This is a distortion of rigid standards about how you and other people should act. The rules of “should” are inflexible and unquestionable. The problem is that these rules are very judgmental and anyone who doesn’t follow these standards may appear to be living below what is expected. This includes you. The expectation is perfection. “I should be the perfect husband.” “I should be the perfect mother.” “I must never make a mistake.” “I should never be upset.” The list is endless.
Here are the solutions to these distortions:
1) Mindreading. If you lack clear information from the person, then either check it out with them or let it go altogether. Stop trying to make inferences about what other people are thinking
2) Catastrophizing. Learn to evaluate the realistic odds of the situations. Are the chances of the feared outcome probable?
3) Filtering. Stop using words that tend to magnify the situation. Words like “always”, “never”, “terrible”, “unbearable” and statements like “I can’t handle this.” You need to shift your focus from what’s perceived as bad to what is good about the person or the situation. If you tend to focus on negative aspects then shift your focus to the positive aspects.
4) Overgeneralization. Stop using words that exaggerate the situation. Strive not to make conclusions based on a single piece of evidence.
5) Polarized Thinking. Stop making things be either black or white, good or bad, smart or stupid, etc.. Learn to think in percentages. People cannot be reduced to a single label and they shouldn’t be judged so rigidly by you. This includes your own rigid standards for yourself.
6) Personalization. Stop comparing yourself to others and seek proof that what’s going on has anything to do with you.
7) Should. Establish flexible rules. Strive to come up with exceptions to your list of shoulds. Make room in your values to allow for other peoples beliefs and preferences.
These 7 irrational thoughts are unnecessary and preventable. You can save yourself a lot of time by learning to redirect your thoughts towards more peaceful and rational thought processes. Stopping mindreading alone could save you two to four hours a day in wasted worry.
“Talk sense to a fool and he calls you foolish.” ~ Euripides
Mark Webb is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in private practice at South Georgia Psychiatric and Counseling Center in Valdosta. He is the author of How To Be A Great Partner. Mark has been in the field of helping individuals and couples since 1986. He has a vast amount of experience and he can have a very positive impact on your life and your relationship. If you are looking for individual or marriage counseling, please call his office in Valdosta, Georgia and his staff will help you set up an appointment.
South Georgia Psychiatric and Counseling Center
2704 N. Oak St. Blg B-3
Valdosta, Georgia 31602