“What is behind your eyes holds more power than what is in front of them”— Gary Zukov
In the previous post, we looked at the power of our thoughts to determine the beliefs that shape how we experience life and ultimately direct the lives we build. If we are to achieve our goals and improve any area of our lives, we must first address our thought life. There are distorted ways of thinking that are common to the human experience. Most of us have at least a few of these dysfunctional and inaccurate patterns of thought. Thankfully, brilliant minds like psychoanalyst Aaron Beck and his student David Burns, have identified these cognitive distortions and made them easy to understand. Here are just a few of them:
1. Mental filtering-this is when we focus only on the negative aspects of a situation and ignore the positive. An example would be receiving praise for a job well-done from many people but negative feedback from only one person. Mental filtering would hyper-focus in the one critical comment while discounting the positive responses of others.
2. Mind reading-is when assumptions are made (and believed) about what someone else is thinking. Whether or not there are solid reasons for assuming, like cues from body language, the problem is that the assumption is not challenged through clear communication. Can you see how this cognitive distortion is behind so much relational stress? Here is a good way to safeguard yourself from falling into this pattern; if there is ANY room for doubt, then check it out. In other words, talk about it with an open mind allowing the other person to express themselves. Listen to what they are saying instead of what you are thinking.
3. Fortune telling-is rigidly believing in a certain outcome regardless of circumstances. This is not to be confused with faith. Fortune telling usually involves believing in a negative outcome whereas faith hopes for what is best. One recent example was when driving to the airport, I got lost. I automatically thought I was going to miss the departure and started planning to catch the next flight. In my mind it was a done-deal! Truth was that I had no idea how far or close I was to the airport. I actually did make my flight.
4. Overgeneralizing-is making and applying a widespread conclusion based on very limited information or experience. For instance, If one person made a rude comment to you, an over generalization would be to think that everyone is in a bad mood. In reality, only one person displayed unkindness.
5. All-or-nothing thinking is to see only the extremes and discount all possibilities in between. Something or someone is either all good or all bad. This can really limit our opportunities. When you say or think in terms like “every”, “always” or “nothing”, you are most likely distorted in your perception. If I give one presentation and it didn’t go as planned, I could believe “I’ll never be good at public speaking” and no longer be involved with future engagements. That would greatly limit my opportunities and therefore my business. The truth may be that I am an average presenter with room for improvement. This opens up my willingness to speak again, improve my style and even end up rocking the public speaking scene!
Don’t limit your possibilities-expand them. If you would like help expanding your possibilities, contact me for a free 30-minute consultation.