The following styles in thinking can be subtle yet very powerful in causing us to experience needless emotional distress. Interestingly, the more distressed we become, the more our thinking can become narrowed and focused, making it difficult to think in more balanced ways. Many times, simply identifying which Thinking Style(s) we are using can be very liberating, allowing us to break free from narrowed, unhealthy thinking patterns.
All-or-nothing thinking – Events are only good or only bad. Looking at things in black-or-white categories, with no middle ground. “If I fall short of perfection, I’m a total failure.”
Overgeneralization – Drawing general conclusions from a single negative experience, expecting it to hold true forever. “I didn’t get hired for the job. I’ll never get any job.”
The mental filter – Focusing on the negatives while filtering out all the positives. Noticing the one thing that went wrong, rather than all the things that went right.
Diminishing the positive – Coming up with reasons why positive events don’t count. “I did well on the presentation, but that was just dumb luck.”
Jumping to conclusions – Making negative interpretations without actual evidence. You act like a mind reader, “I can tell she secretly hates me.” Or a fortune teller, “I just know something terrible is going to happen.”
Catastrophizing – You expect things to turn out badly. “The pilot said we’re in for some turbulence. The plane’s going to crash!”
Emotional reasoning – Believing that the way you feel reflects reality. “I feel frightened right now. That must mean I’m in real physical danger.”
‘Shoulds’ and ‘Musts’ – You have strict rules about how you and others should/must feel and behave. You feel angry if others break these rules and guilty if you break them. “I shouldn’t take any time off. I must work hard all the time.”
Labeling – Labeling yourself based on mistakes and perceived shortcomings. “I’m a failure; an idiot; a loser.”
Personalization – Assuming responsibility for things that are outside your control. “It’s my fault my son got in an accident. I should have warned him to drive carefully in the rain.”