Identify your thinking traps

Identify your thinking traps

Your thoughts affect how you see yourself and the world around you. What you tell yourself about a situation affects how you feel and what you do. Consequently, when you get into a thinking trap (usually when you feel depressed, angry, sad or anxious) you are more likely to respond to the situation in a way that is unhelpful. The thinking trap can have a big influence on your mental health - so it is important to identify what is happening and try to change it.

See whether you can recognise your own thinking trap in the list below:

Thinking trap

Examples

Fortune telling: When we predict the future.

“I know I will mess up.”

“I will never be able to stop my anger.”

Labelling: When we assign negative traits to ourselves or others.

“I’m stupid.”

“I’m undesirable.”

Catastrophising: This is when we imagine that the worst possible thing is about to happen and predict that we won’t be able to cope with the outcome.

“I will freak out and no one will help me.”

“I’m going to blush during that presentation and people will think I’m stupid and I won’t be able to survive the embarrassment.” 

Negative filter: When we focus on the negatives and seldom notice the positives. This prevents us from looking at all aspects of the situation and drawing a more balanced conclusion.

“When I did that presentation people looked bored so I wasn’t doing a good job.”  Even though a number of people looked interested and complimented you on your good presentation, you only focused on the negatives.

Should/mustn’t statements: When you tell yourself how you ‘should’, or ‘ought’ to feel and behave.

“I should do well.’

“I mustn’t get anxious.”

Personalising: When we attribute a disproportionate amount of the blame from a negative event to ourselves and fail to see that certain events are also caused by others.

“My marriage ended because I failed.”

Emotional reasoning: When we let our feelings guide our interpretation of reality.

“I feel depressed: therefore my marriage is not working out.”

“I feel anxious so I must be in danger.”

Unfair comparisons: When we interpret events in terms of standards that are unrealistic by focusing on others who do better than us, and then judging ourselves inferior in the comparison.

“She’s more successful than I am.”

Ok, so you are now wondering how to get out of your thinking trap (bit of the mind reading thinking trap going on there). Many people find the following exercises help to gain more balance.

  • Consider what actually happened in an upsetting situation (stick only to the facts!)

What actually happened?

What thoughts were going through you mind?

How do you feel?

How are you behaving? What are you doing to cope?

  • Identify what thinking trap you are getting caught in.
  • Challenge the thinking trap.
  • You can use this useful worksheet to achieve a more balanced view http://www.getselfhelp.co.uk/docs/UnhelpfulThinkingHabitsWithAlternatives.pdf
  • Conduct an experiment – if you are thinking that you are useless at your job, as people that you work with for some feedback. If you assume that everyone is going to think you do a bad job, you may be pleasantly surprised to learn that they don’t feel the same way as yourself!

Counselling Directory is not responsible for the articles published by members. The views expressed are those of the member who wrote the article.

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