6 Ways Our Minds Trap Us
We often find ourselves caught in ''thinking traps'' – ways of thinking that make it difficult for us to see different possibilities, alternative solutions to what we have in mind, based on our previous experiences. This is something we tend to do especially when we are stressed, angry or irritable. To learn how to step outside of these traps, it is important to be able to identify when we are in them. This helps us see them for what they are – thinking patterns that have been honed for years or decades that box us in and limit our capacity to see things from any other perspective. Here are six common traps we find ourselves in:
Jumping to conclusions:
We interpret things negatively when there are no facts to support our conclusion. This trap can take two forms: mind reading and fortune telling.
- Mind reading is when, without checking it out, we conclude that someone is reacting negatively to us.
- Fortune telling is when we predict that things will turn out badly.
- This is a thinking pattern by which we conclude that our emotional reaction proves something is true, regardless of the observation of actual evidence – “I feel stupid, therefore I am stupid”.
Over-focusing on conclusions that are theoretically possible but in fact are not likely:
- The more time we spend focusing on a hypothetical unwanted conclusion or outcome – however unlikely - the more we feel stressed, anxious, engage in anxious actions, and suffer.
Personalization and blame:
- Personalization occurs when we hold ourselves personally responsible for an event that is not entirely (or at all) under our control. It leads to feelings of guilt, shame, and inadequacy.
- Sometimes, we do the opposite and blame other people or circumstances for our difficulties and problems, and we are unwilling or unable to see how we ourselves might be contributing to the situation. Blame leads to further problems because people we blame resent it and nothing ever gets resolved while the animosity continues to grow.
Thinking the worst, or catastrophizing:
- Usually this involves imagining or assuming the worst case scenario. It’s the tendency to overestimate not only the likelihood that something bad will happen, but also its impact. Moreover, when we think the worst, we also tend to believe that we can’t handle it. When we underestimate our ability to cope, even a little thing can become a catastrophe.
- “Shoulds” are rules and expectations that pressure us and others to act in a certain way, no matter what – they back us into a corner. Our thinking becomes inflexible. When we break a “should,” we tend to feel guilty or even ashamed about things that others are able to quickly move on from. When others don’t live up to our expectations, we tend to feel angry and resentful.
Adapted from “Mind over Mood: Change how you feel by changing the way you think.”
Lana Mamisashvilli is a psychotherapist who has worked in the field of perinatal mental health (pregnancy and postpartum) for more than 12 years and is passionate about helping new moms transition to motherhood. Healthy Moms cardholders receive a free 30 minute initial consultation with Lana (in person or by phone) and 25% off therapy sessions. Find out more here: https://gohealthymoms.com/lana-mamisashvili-counselling-psychotherapy