“I know he thinks I’m stupid” – mind reading & other errors in our thinking

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) focuses on feelings, behaviour and thoughts – what are you really thinking, and how do you think? Some of the thoughts we have aren’t particularly helpful and can lower our mood. These so-called unhelpful thinking styles can be unlocked by CBT and replaced with something more helpful.

So, you know what I’m thinking?
Your boss asks you to do a piece of work again. You think “My boss thinks I’m an idiot and not up to the job”. This is an example of mind-reading, probably one of our favourite unhelpful styles of thinking. Do you really know what someone else is thinking? If so, shouldn’t you be working for MI6, the CIA or FBI? A more helpful way to think is to base your thoughts on the facts. What did your boss actually say? Did they call you an idiot? Or did they ask you to do the work again because you had missed something first time round? Did you do the work again and get it right? Yes, you did, therefore you aren’t an idiot and you are up to the job!

Fortune telling
You think, “I know I will totally fluff my lines in my presentation tomorrow and everyone will laugh at me”. It’s really common to start making predictions about what is going to happen in the future. However, no one can predict the future – and trying to do so can increase stress and anxiety. So instead, stop and look for the facts. How did your last presentation go? Did everyone laugh at you? Even though you were really nervous, you delivered your presentation, no one laughed, and in fact they clapped at the end.

Blowing things out of proportion
“Oh no, if I disagree with my friend, that’s it, she will never speak to me again and I will lose our friendship”. This is catastrophising, and usually begins with ‘oh no’ or ‘what if’. Even though the problem is quite small, when we catastrophise, things can get very big in our minds very quickly, and we start to feel we’re losing control. So again, stop and look for facts. Have you disagreed with your friend before? What happened then? Are you still speaking? Do you know for a fact that they don’t agree with you this time? How might you deal with the situation in a way which is helpful? Bringing the situation into focus will give you the right perspective.

There are other styles such as only looking at the things that went wrong, rather than what went right (mental filtering), labelling yourself or others (eg. I’m a failure, he’s a loser) and over-generalising about things (eg. Nothing good ever happens to me).

Remember, just because you think it, it doesn’t mean it’s true!
Weigh up the facts and then come up with a helpful and realistic thought.

This entry was posted in cbt, counselling, emotions, thoughts and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.