I’ve been thinking about unhelpful thinking styles. And I really should, because that is what put me up against the wall.
It was all or nothing, no shades of grey anywhere on the horizon. No visible way forward. That thinking landed me in the emergency room.
Solutions that I thought up I magnified, blowing them out of proportion. Either way, I underestimated the good or way overestimated the bad. Like “how can I talk to family about this, they won’t understand.” Ok, I think I’m back to all or nothing thinking.
In the hospital, one of the workshop sessions I attended covered Unhelpful Thinking Styles. I think the only one I have not used is Labeling. At least I steered clear of assigning labels to myself or others. You know, “I’m stupid” or I’m completely useless.” But nine out of ten isn’t a great score when zero is the goal.
From the hospital handout, here are 10 Unhelpful Thinking Styles:
- All or Nothing Thinking – Sometimes called “black and white thinking.”
- Mental Filter – Only paying attention to certain types of evidence.
- Jumping to Conclusions – There are two types; Mind-Reading (imagining we know what others are thinking) and Fortune-Telling (predicting the future).
- Emotional Reasoning – Assuming that because we feel a certain way, what we think must be true.
- Labeling – Assigning labels to ourselves or other people.
- Over-generalizing – Seeing a pattern based upon a single event or being overly broad in the conclusions we draw.
- Disqualifying the Positive – Discounting the good things that have happened or that you have done for some reason or another.
- Magnification (catastrophizing) & Minimizing – Blowing things out of proportion.
- Critical Words (should and must) – Using critical words like “should,” “must,” or “ought” can make us feel guilty or like we have already failed.
- Personalization – Blaming yourself or taking responsibility for something that wasn’t completely your fault. Conversely, blaming other people for something that was your fault.
One of the other unhelpful thinking styles I like to throw around is jumping to conclusions. I’m a great mind-reader. I can tell what you are going to think, how you will respond, and what I will then need to do, all without ever speaking to you. Then I’m justified in whatever it was I was thinking. I just knew what my family would say if I told them I felt depressed and did not see any options. Without ever speaking to them, I cleared up what they were thinking. Talk about crazy!
No wait, that is labeling, and I said I hadn’t used that form of unhelpful thinking. Now I’m 10 for 10. And I had predicted that this was going to be a good day (using my jumping to conclusions style). I can joke about this today, but a week ago, it was dead-serious.
That morning, in my mind, I had three choices. First, I could commit suicide and end it. But I’ve never acted on those thoughts and as I say “I’m too competitive. I want to see 100.” My second choice was to keep doing what I had been doing and hope for a different result. Just before going to the emergency room to seek help, that did not seem like much of a plan.
That left me with choice three, seek professional attention. I only chose that because it was slightly less frightening than choice number two. So, I got a shower, put on clean clothes, and headed for the emergency room.
It was almost 48 hours later that I first began to see a path forward. Up against the wall was easing.
Please share this post if you know someone who would benefit from learning about identifying Unhelpful Thinking Styles.