Alarming Thought Patterns to Avoid

All-or-Nothing Thinking. You see things in black-and-white categories. If your performance falls short of perfect, you see yourself as a total failure. You exaggerate the importance of things (such as your goof up or someone else’s achievement), or you shrink things until they appear tiny (your own desirable qualities or the other fellow’s imperfections). This is also called the “binocular trick”.

Jumping to Conclusions: You make a negative interpretation even though there are no definite facts that convincingly support your conclusion.

a. Mind reading. You conclude that someone is reacting negatively to you, and you don’t bother to check this out.

b. Fortune telling. You anticipate that things will turn out badly, and you feel convinced that your prediction is an already established fact.

Should Statements: You try to motivate yourself with should and shouldn’t, as if you had to be whipped and punished before you could be expected to do anything. “Musts” and “oughts” are also offenders. The emotional consequence is guilt. When you direct ‘should statements’ toward others, you feel anger, frustration, and resentment.

Owning Other’s Problems: You see yourself as the cause of some negative external event for which in fact you were not primarily responsible. “It must be my fault.”

Overgeneralization: Assuming one event is actually a pattern. For example, you see a single negative event as a never-ending pattern of defeat.

Disqualifying the Positive: Filtering out or rejecting positive experiences to maintain negative beliefs.

7. Catastrophizing: Predicting the worst possible outcome imaginable. Terrible, awful, horrible, worst ever, etc. are key words.