10 Common Negative Thought Patterns
(from the Happiness Institute)
(1) Overgeneralization: Coming to a general conclusion based on a single event or one piece of evidence. If something bad happens once, you expect it to happen again and again. Such thoughts often include the words “always” and “never.”
Example: I forgot to finish that project on time. I never do things right.
(2) Filtering: Concentrating on the negatives while ignoring the positives. Ignoring important information that contradicts your (negative) view of the situation.
Example: I know my boss said most of my submission was great but he also said there were a number of mistakes that had to be corrected…he must think I’m really hopeless.
(3) All or Nothing Thinking: Thinking in black and white terms (e.g., things are right or wrong, good or bad). A tendency to view things at the extremes with no middle ground.
Example: I made so many mistakes. If I can’t do it perfectly I might as well not bother.
I won’t be able to get all of this done, so I may as well not start it.
(4) Personalizing: Taking responsibility for something that’s not your fault. Thinking that what people say or do is some kind of reaction to you, or is in some way related to you.
Example: John’s in a terrible mood. It must have been something I did.
(5) Catastrophizing: Overestimating the chances of disaster. Expecting something unbearable or intolerable to happen.
Example: I’m going to make a fool of myself and people will laugh at me. What if I haven’t turned the iron off and the house burns down.
(6) Emotional Reasoning: Mistaking feelings for facts. Negative things you feel about yourself are held to be true because they feel true.
Example: I feel like a failure, therefore I am a failure. I feel ugly, therefore I must be ugly.
(7) Mind Reading: Making assumptions about other people’s thoughts, feelings and behaviours without checking the evidence.
Example: John’s talking to Molly, so he must like her more than me.
(8) Fortune Telling Error: Anticipating an outcome and assuming your prediction is an established fact. These negative expectations can be self-fulfilling: predicting what we would do on the basis of past behavior may prevent the possibility of change.
Example: I’ve always been like this; I’ll never be able to change. It’s not going to work out so there’s no point even trying.
(9) Should Statements: Using “should”, “ought”, or “must” statements can set up
unrealistic expectations of yourself and others. It involves operating by rigid
rules and not allowing for flexibility.
Example: I must always be in control. I should be married by now.
(10) Magnification/Minimization: A tendency to exaggerate the importance of
negative information or experiences, while trivializing or reducing the
significance of positive information or experiences.
Example: He noticed I spilled something on my shirt. I know he said he will go out with me again, but I bet he won’t call.
Worrying can become habitual and negatively color that way we see ourselves, others, and the world around us. Recognizing when we are succumbing to rigid, negative thought patterns, challenging the validity of those thoughts, and replacing them with a more flexible, empathetic mind-set may contribute to a peaceful, accepting existence.
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