#Askingforafriend: Are your thoughts a trap?

By Kristin Wyse
GCU Office of Student Care
#Askingforafriend

Thoughts are powerful. We create very detailed narratives in our head about situations or people that aren’t necessarily true and accurate. And we can also fall into negative thought patterns when we experience negative situations.

Let’s review some of the common thinking traps we may fall into:

  • Overgeneralization: Often use “always” and “never” when describing situations. “This will never work. Everything I do always fails.”
  • Black-and-white thinking: Viewing things as either good or bad, perfect or terrible. “Well, I just ruined my whole diet by eating those potato chips. I might as well give up.”
  • Fortune telling: Predicting that something bad will happen without evidence to back it up. “I just know I’m going to fail tomorrow’s exam even though I’ve studied a lot.”
  • Emotional reasoning: If we feel negatively about something, then it must mean it’s not good. “I feel stupid and boring, so this must be true about me.”
  • Labeling: Assigning negative labels to yourself or others when something is done wrong. “I’m a failure” vs. “I messed up that time.”
  • Should or must statements: Telling yourself how you should or must act, respond or behave. “I shouldn’t eat any junk food ever again.”
  • Mind reading: Jumping to conclusions without evidence to back it up. “She doesn’t want to be my friend.”
  • Personalization: Blaming yourself and taking all the responsibility when something goes wrong. “My boyfriend is upset. I must have done something wrong to make him mad at me.”
  • Catastrophizing: Viewing things as terrible and horrible, even when they are small things. “I’m going to fail this exam, then fail the course, then get kicked out of school.”
  • Magnification and minimization: Magnifying others’ positive traits and minimizing yours. “They really didn’t mean it when they said they appreciate me. They were just trying to be nice.”
  • Filtering: Focusing on only the negative things in a situation and ignoring the positives. “They don’t like spending time with me because Jack didn’t talk to me, even though others did.”

So what do we do when we find ourselves falling into one or more of these thinking traps? We need to identify how to clarify if the negative thoughts are accurate and true. We can do that by:

  • Looking at all the supporting or disproving evidence to determine if the thought is accurate.
  • Ask yourself if you would think the same thing of your best friend in the same situation to help determine if you are being more critical of yourself.
  • Ask others you trust if they believe your thought is accurate and true.
  • Experiment and assess by creating a scenario where you can determine if your thought is accurate.

Finally, identify a more positive thought by taking in all the information you’ve gathered to determine a new balanced view. We have a choice to continue to fall into these thinking traps and only think on the negative story in our head. But life is a lot more enjoyable when we can make an intentional choice to focus on a more balanced perspective.

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GCU Magazine

Bible Verse

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! (2 Corinthians 5:17)

To Read More: www.verseoftheday.com/