As we go about our day to day lives, our internal monologue is always narrating our thinking and experiences. This ‘self-talk’ is influenced mostly by our underlying beliefs and assumptions and sometimes our thoughts are not particularly accurate or truthful. This is unfortunate because it’s our thoughts that influence the way we behave but also the way we feel. Listening and, worst still, believing in irrational or negative thoughts can lead to a wide range of problems in daily life including relationship problems, communication issues and bad decision making. Whether you are trying to reach professional or personal goals, or simply want to break the cycle of negative thoughts – the first step to success is recognising these 10 common thinking errors.
Current situations and events can trigger upsetting memories, leading us to believe that the danger is here and now, rather than in the past, causing us distress right now .
Thinking. Tell yourself: This is just a reminder of the past. That was then, and this is now. Even though this memory makes me feel upset, it’s not actually happening again right now.
Believing we know what’s going to happen in the future.
Thinking. Tell yourself: Am I thinking that I can predict the future? How likely is it that that might really happen?
Imagining and believing that the worst possible thing will happen
Thinking. Tell yourself: OK, thinking that the worst possible thing will definitely happen isn’t really helpful right now. What’s most likely to happen?
4. All or Nothing Thinking
Believing that something or someone can be only good or bad, right or wrong, rather than anything in – between or ‘shades of grey ’. Things aren’t either totally white or totally black – there are shades of grey.
Thinking. Tell yourself: Where is this on the spectrum? Grade this situation as it is now.
Assuming we know what others are thinking (usually about us).
Thinking. Tell yourself: Am I assuming I know what others are thinking? What’s the evidence? Those are my own thoughts, not theirs. Is there another, more balanced way of looking at it?
6. Filtering Out The Positives
When we notice only what the filter allows or wants us to notice, and we dismiss anything that doesn’t ‘fit’. Like looking through dark blinkers or ‘gloomy specs’, or only catching the negative stuff in our ‘kitchen strainers’ whilst anything more positive or realistic is dismissed .
Thinking. Tell yourself: Am I only noticing the bad stuff? Am I filtering out the positives? Am I wearing those ‘gloomy specs’? What would be more realistic?
7. Judgements / Labelling
Making evaluations or judgments about events, ourselves, others, or the world, rather than describing what we actually see and have evidence for.
Thinking. Tell yourself: I’m making an evaluation about the situation or person. It’s how I make sense of the world, but that doesn’t mean my judgements are always right or helpful. Is there another perspective?
8. Critical Self
Putting ourselves down, self – criticism, blaming ourselves for events or situations that are not (totally) our responsibility
Thinking. Tell yourself: There I go, that internal bully’s at it again. Would most people who really know me say that about me? Is this something that I am totally responsible for?
9. Emotional Reasoning
I feel bad so it must be bad! I feel anxious, so I must be in danger . Just because it feels bad, doesn’t necessarily mean it is bad.
Thinking. Tell yourself: My feelings are just a reaction to my thoughts – and thoughts are just automatic brain reflexes.
10. Compare and Despair
Seeing only the good and positive aspects in others, and getting upset when comparing ourselves negatively against them.
Thinking. Tell yourself: Am I doing that ‘compare and despair’ thing? What would be a more balanced and helpful way of looking at it?