Unhelpful Thinking Styles (3)
In my 3rd blog about unhelpful thinking styles I’ve decided to look at mind-reading as this can often follow on from comparing ourselves with others.
What I mean by mind-reading is that we tend to assume we know what others are thinking about us. For example ‘I bet he doesn’t like me’ or ‘she must think I’m being stupid’ or ‘they must be laughing at me behind my back’. You see, mind-reading often comes from a negative outlook – we feel bad about ourselves and then make the assumption that others think negatively about us too. We make the mistake of projecting on to others what we’re feeling about ourselves…I don’t like myself therefore others can’t like me either. Yet the truth of the matter is that unless someone makes it clear how they feel about us, we really don’t have any facts to back up our assumptions and therefore we could be getting it all wrong.
Unfortunately, what can happen as a result of mind-reading is that it can cause us to avoid others and cut people out because we’re fearful of their supposed judgments of us – ‘She doesn’t like me anymore so I can’t ask her round for coffee again’ or ‘if I invite them round they’ll be nice to me but they’ll really think that I’m stupid.’ This behaviour can isolate us, leaving us short on friends.
So the antidote to mind-reading is firstly to catch yourself doing it – aah – there’s that thought again that’s making assumptions about what that person’s thinking….The second thing to do is challenge it – ‘do I really know that for a fact? How have I come to that conclusion? – is it based on what they’ve actually said? or just what I’m thinking? If there are no facts to back up your mind-reading thought then you can think about a more rational way of looking at it – ‘hmmm…I’ve got no facts for this so it’s possible that they do like me, or they do want to continue being my friend’.
One thing to point out is that when we’re feeling low, our inclination can be to think negatively – including our thoughts about other people’s opinions of us. Recognising that can also help us to rationalise and remind ourselves that when we’re feeling better we probably won’t feel this way about them.
Of course, there can be times when we’re very aware that others do think negatively about us and it may be that you need support for this, or you may find that previous experiences have caused you to get into a habit of mind-reading that’s difficult to change, so please feel free to get in contact if you’d like further help with this.