In my last post I mentioned that the 9 year old girl I was working with had some thinking errors (traps) around what she thought others would think of her hair if it had a bump in it. So what did I mean by that? Well, we all have these kind of automatic thoughts that come into our head all day long. Some of them are helpful like “Yes! I did a great job on that project! I am the best!” However, many people have a lot of the not so helpful ones such as “I am so stupid! How could I have missed that question! I am just not good at anything!” Knowing what our thinking errors/traps are, is important because they impact how we feel and behave. Thinking errors can be categorized by the following:
1. Negative glasses: We can only see one part of what happens – the negative part! If you have a good time, the negative glasses will still find the things that went wrong and let you only see them. We cannot see the possible good things that could happen in a situation.
2. All or nothing thinking: Everything is seen in all or nothing terms. There is nothing in between; No shades of gray or scale of relative risk. This kind of thinking sounds like “I will NEVER …”, “I ALWAYS…”
3. Snowballing (Catastrophizing) : A single event or disappointment snowballs and quickly grows into an never-ending pattern of defeat. You always think the worst thing is going to happen.
4. Fortune teller: You tend to predict the future outcome which leads to anxiety. This frequently sounds like “what if…” This tends to lead to more worry, especially since we usually do not predict positive outcomes.
5. Perfectionist: Setting expectations for yourself that are too high and are nearly impossible to reach. This usually involves all or nothing thinking too. If there is one little mistake the whole thing isn’t good.
The first step in changing these automatic thoughts is to notice them and write them down. You can then look for patterns and things that trigger them. In my next post I will discuss this in more detail.
Also, I actually have a handout of 17 of these thinking errors! If you would like a copy, just email me and I will be happy to mail one to you.