Chapter 3 Extended: Faulty Thinking – What Is It And How To Get Over It?

In the Psychological Essentials Course you learn how to observe your thoughts, which gives you the ability to spot faulty thinking. Faulty thinking involves errors that are sometimes hard to spot because we get used to think in a certain way. In Chapter 3 you became acquainted with two very common ways of faulty thinking, “Catastrophizing” and “All or Nothing Thinking.”

Here are 10 more ways of faulty thinking, along with examples to make it easier for you to spot them:

1. Overgeneralization:

Overgeneralization is when you try to categorize every single event as part of a never-ending process. For instance, when you fail to pass a job interview you say, ‘I always fail to impress.’ Similarly, when you fail to win in chess you say, ‘I can never win in chess.’ Words like ‘never’ and ‘always’ are part of the overgeneralization process. Every time you categorize a person, event or thing with a neve- ending pattern, it becomes a part of the overgeneralization process. If you think your friend is ‘always’ mean with you it is overgeneralization.

2. Overlooking the Positive:

It is very common for people to overlook positive experiences in favor negative ones. Some people think their positive experiences don’t count, while others don’t even realize their positivity. For instance, if you are able to work 8 hours in a day and your friend works for 9 hours, you will always look at that one hour that your friend works and you don’t. Another good example is that when a currency trader wins $1000 in a day but loses $200, he is depressed about the loss but not happy about the winnings.

3. Definite Statements:

Definite statements are also known as ‘should statements.’ These are statements that raise great expectations. For instance, you believe your friend ‘should’ bring you ice cream tonight because you have told him to do so. If he doesn’t, this thinking will lead to anger, frustration and depression.

4. Blaming Other Factors:

Very often you will find yourself or others blaming ‘the other factors’ in their lives for their problems. For instance, if your friend didn’t succeed in a job interview he might say ‘I would have passed it if my parents had wished me luck.’ Such statements and thinking are part of the personalization or blaming process. Why blame others for what you couldn’t achieve?

5. Categorization or Labeling:

This is an extreme way of black-and-white thinking. Here, the person tends to categorize people under either the good label or the bad label. If your friend didn’t give you his car for a day you would think he is not a good friend instead of realizing that he must be busy or something.

6. Emotional Reasoning:

Emotional reasoning is taking feelings as facts and basing your decisions and actions upon them. For example, you feel guilty about having spent so much money on some sports equipment for yourself and then you criticize your partner for having spent a bit more money on some new clothes. Another example would be putting off something important just because you don’t “feel” like it.

7. Exaggeration:

Exaggeration is, for example, when you exaggerate the good qualities of a person to such an extent that you overlook their negative points. If your friend helps you out financially you might consider him as a person you can trust even though you have never tried him out.

8. Predicting the Future:

In this case, you predict the negativity of a situation or a person without even experiencing it. For instance, you assume that the job interview you are going for will not work out well, and you bring that mindset to the interview.

9. Mind Reading:

You might think you know another person so well that you can predict his reaction or attitude towards a certain issue. For instance, if your friend is annoying you, you think it is because he never liked you. You then continue to react with the same mindset instead of understanding why he is actually doing so.

10. Mentally Filtering Occasions:

If you are mentally filtering you focus, for example, on a negative detail of an event or person and overlook anything positive that may be there. For instance, your neighbor is actually a good person with just one bad habit: he plays loud music which disturbs you. Instead of talking it out with him, you think it’s of no use because he’s simply evil, even though he might not be aware that the music is too loud.

Tips to Overcome Such Thinking…

It’s absolutely normal for us humans to run into some of these ways of faulty thinking while observing our thoughts.

Here are some tips how to overcome such thinking:

Believe in the Evidence:

Instead of reacting to what you believe or think is right about a person or a situation, believe instead in the actual evidence. Examine how others are behaving to such situations or people and why. What are they doing to counter this? Maybe what you assume is not correct. Even if it is right, you don’t have to believe in it until you prove its validity.

Avoid Double Standards:

You can put someone down in a harsh way just because you never liked him. He did something you didn’t like and now you are harsh and mean towards him. But if the same attributes were shown by someone you loved, you would shrug it off as not a big deal. Try to avoid such double standards.

Avoid Black and White…Go for Gray!

Nothing is ever either completely perfect or imperfect. Instead of categorizing things as ‘perfect’ or ‘imperfect,’ try rating them on a scale from 1-10. Even if you didn’t pass the job interview, you still were shortlisted, weren’t you? This means that your resume or your qualifications were good enough to catch their attention. Therefore, this situation should be rated as an 8-point situation instead of a failure.

Don’t Use Words that Don’t Mean Anything…

People often use vague and imprecise words to describe their feelings. For instance, if your partner lied to you, don’t just be ‘angry’ and say to yourself that you are angry. Be more specific and choose the words that best describe your current feelings. Maybe you are disappointed and feel let down and are also angry with yourself for trusting him and now feel as if you were stupid to do so? Try using specific terms to understand your thoughts and feelings. This will teach you to analyze things as they are instead of broadening them.

The Semantic Approach:

The semantic approach is all about using terms that are not so emotionally loaded. For instance, use flexible words like ‘rarely’ instead of inflexible ones like ‘never.’ Other examples include:

Replace… with…
Should Like or Want
Should not Do not Like or Want
Have to Would Like
Must Wish
Must not Wish would not
Deserve Desire
Always Usually/Frequently
Forever Until/Unless
Never Rarely
Awful Disagreeable
Horrible Unfortunate
Terrible Unfavorable
Perfect Successful

The Practice of Reattribution:

Instead of blaming another person entirely for something that has happened, think about the circumstances that may have contributed to the outcome. If a friend has betrayed you, instead of simply saying he’s a jerk and that’s why he did it, consider why he did what he did and believe in the evidence. Maybe he didn’t like the way you behaved with him? Maybe he didn’t know that you would consider it a betrayal? There could be a plethora of reasons that you have overlooked.