I know none of you would ever fall prey to any such faulty thinking, but bear with me anyway!
The first type of negative and irrational thinking is a bit subtle. You reason from how you feel. You assume that your negative emotions necessarily reflect how things really are.
“I feel as though I am a bad wife, so I must be a bad wife.”
“I feel cheated and unhappy with my life. This proves that life is unfair.”
“I am furious with my co-worker. This proves that he is wrong and at fault.”
“I feel overwhelmed and hopeless with my finances. Therefore, my money problems must be impossible to solve.”
At first, it might appear that these thoughts are unrelated, but in fact they all stem from the same basic misconception: that your feelings accurately reflect reality. Just because you feel something does not necessarily make it so.
The next category of cognitive distortion is more straightforward, and I suspect more commonly experienced by many people.
Jumping to Conclusions
There are two concepts in this category: fortune telling and mind reading.
“Fortune telling” is predicting that things will turn out badly. The title of this post provides one example. “My job has been so difficult lately. I am overloaded with work and extremely frustrated. It will always be this way. I need to find another job.”
Who hasn’t thought this from time to time? (you are so busted with negative thinking!)
Another example: “My daughter just entered high school, and she has been very difficult and rebellious ever since. These four years of high school are going to be hell!”
“Mind reading” is assuming that people are reacting negatively to you without any good evidence. It is somewhat similar to emotional reasoning in that it also involves ignoring the facts of a situation. You meet a new executive at work and tell yourself, “I can’t believe I just met this woman and said something so stupid. She must think I am a total idiot.”
You may, in fact, be an idiot, but this new person at work hasn’t found you out quite yet!
Now that we have firmly established that all of you, my cherished followers, would never succumb to anything other than the most positive, realistic, and ideal thinking, I won’t need to continue this series of articles.