Step Towards Transformation
What are thinking traps and how are they developed?
Our five senses take in far more information than our brains can process.
We unconsciously take “mental shortcuts” to simplify the information and make sense of it. These shortcuts can trap us by leading us to inaccurate conclusions,hence the name “thinking traps.”
How do thinking traps affect our ability to respond with resilience?
Thinking traps cause us to draw automatic conclusions based on inadequate information and, thus, reduce our accuracy and flexibility.
Accuracy and flexibility are the cornerstones of strong thinking.
What are some common thinking traps?
Some common thinking traps that contribute to “Me”/”Not Me” and “Always/Everything” thinking habits are
Jumping to conclusions:
Making assumptions with little or no evidence to back them up (All thinking traps involve making assumptions.)
Martha comes home, the house is quiet, and the living room is a mess even though her husband was home all day. She thinks, “Well, looks like he’s gone out and left the mess for me.” He calls downstairs, “Martha, I’m in bed—got the flu.
Personalizing (“Me” thinking)
Blaming oneself for problems for which one is not primarily responsible
“The kids are so agitated today. I’m just not cut out for this kind of work.”
Externalizing (“Not me” thinking)
Blaming others for things for which they are not primarily responsible
“If she had pulled her weight, our team would have come out on top.”
Mind-reading: (Contributes to “Me”/“Not me” and “Always/Everything” thinking)
Assuming we know what another person(s) is thinking Expecting another person to know what we are thinking “I just know that they are talking about me right now.”
“If he really cared, he’d know that I’m too tired to go out tonight.”
Emotional reasoning(Contributes to “Me”/“Not me” and “Always/Everything” thinking)
Making an assumption about an experience based on feelings rather than facts. Linked to thoughts of “I should” or “they should.”
Jan looks around at her untidy house and feels speechless by the prospect of cleaning it: “I should be able to keep things orderly, but it’s hopeless. Why even try?”
Overgeneralizing: (Contributes to “Me”/“Not me” and “Always/Everything” thinking)
Making an assumption about someone (or a situation) based on only one or two experiences
Assuming the cause of a problem is due to a character flaw instead of a person’s behaviour
“People like her can’t be trusted.”
“I am such a loser. I can’t do anything right.”
Magnifying/minimizing: (Contributes to “Always/Everything” and “Me”/“Not me” thinking)
Magnifying the negative aspects of a situation and minimizing the positive parts
Magnifying the positive aspects and ignoring the negative
James was laughing and playing during outside play,but told his mom, “My day was terrible.
Mary’s oldest and best friend leaves a message saying she’s really upset with her. Mary thinks, “We
are such good friends; it can’t be anything serious. She’s probably just tired.”
Catastrophizing: (Contributes to “Always/Everything” thinking)
Exaggerating the likelihood that something bad will happen, or exaggerating how bad it will be
“Oh, no. I misplaced the report. Now it will be late. And my boss will be mad. And I’ll be fired.
And I won’t be able to pay my bills. And ….”
The fact that I didn’t get a promotion means that my supervisor doesn’t like me. And that means that I’ll never get promoted at work. And that means I’ll be stuck at the bottom of the pay scale. And that means I’ll never get my own apartment. And that means I’ll always have to live with family. And that means ….