Our mentors and page authors are not necessarily psychologists or therapists. Even when they are, this page is not medical or psychological advice and they are not creating a doctor/therapist-client relationship. You should consult a professional if possible and they can tell you whether this advice applies to your situation. If this is an emergency, you should call your national emergency number, like 911, or a mental health hotline, like 1-800-950-6264.
This page is for figuring out if you use habits of mind that aren’t useful and that you should work on and use CBT tools or other methods to fix. Perhaps these problematic thoughts are also things you can notice so you can refute them.
- Personalization: Assuming something is about you when it isn’t about you. For example, you didn’t win the lottery ticket because it’s random chance, not because you’re unlucky. Even things that seem very, very personal often aren’t. For example, many people are laid off because the company is suffering problems that don’t have anything to do with you.
- Refute by saying: “There are other reasons for what happened to me. I am still strong, capable, smart, etc. What happened to me has nothing to do with my worth.”
- Magnification/Minimization: Very frequently, we magnify how bad bad things are and minimize how good good things are. Instead, take time every day with positive psychology tools to magnify the good and use CBT to minimize the bad.
- Refute by asking yourself: “Will I really care about this bad event in five years?” “What is the worst-case scenario?” “Is this situation as bad as it looks?” “Is there a silver lining?”
- Selective Attention: Similar to magnification and minimization, sometimes we only notice what we want to about an event. Ask yourself if there’s a silver lining or if you need to pay attention to the good things that happened, not just the bad.
- Refute by asking if you can place your attention on other aspects of the same event. Were there positive things to notice or lessons to learn?
- Inflexible Thinking: Whether it comes from a strong religious belief or moral code or whether it’s just your personality, inflexible thinking is not helpful to your mental health. You must be willing to challenge your beliefs, whatever they are and no matter how right you think you are. If you can’t even argue with your beliefs, then they’re probably not actually very strong or very good. For example, you might not be open to learning new skills at your job because you think you already know everything and younger people shouldn’t challenge you when they have nothing to teach you. You might think that anyone who supports a different political party is stupid. You might think that you’re really kind and anyone who doesn’t think you’re nice is just wrong. But maybe you’re actually wrong.
- Refute by arguing against your beliefs. You might be right, but you should evaluate the pros and cons and be open to new evidence that you may in fact be wrong.
- All-Or-Nothing Thinking: We often think that things are very extreme and definite and that they’ll always be the same way. Such as “if I don’t get married by 35, I’ll always be alone.” (Even though marriage isn’t about being alone and you can find people afterward.)
- Refute by finding the shades of gray and telling yourself things aren’t as all-or-nothing as they seem. List facts supporting and refuting your absolutist opinion to gain more perspective.
- Fortune Telling: We often assume we know exactly how things are going to go (and we assume they’ll go badly), even though we have no evidence to support it. For example, you might think, “I’m going to lose my job and go bankrupt.”
- Refute by writing down facts that support the opposite outcome. How sure are you? And even if the worst comes to pass, does that really mean other bad things will happen? For example, even if your lose your job, does that mean you’ll go bankrupt or can you have other contingency plans in place?
- Mind Reading: We often assume what others are thinking and how they are judging us, even if we don’t know what’s crossing their minds for sure.
- Refute by asking people what they think! Say to someone: “Hey, I felt judged/saddened/hurt by your statement [xyz] because I thought it meant [this] about me. Did you mean that?” If you can’t ask someone, then look for clues that refute your original assumption. People are often just stressed and preoccupied and it has nothing to do with you. Finally, ask yourself if it really matters what that person thinks about you.
- Playing God: We often get upset about the outcomes of our actions, rather than what we can control. You should always aim to focus on what you can do, rather than how others respond. For example, reward yourself for submitting your novel to agents, not on getting an agent to say yes.
- Refute by telling yourself: “I am awesome, because I did the hard work to do this thing. What happens now is out of my control and if it doesn’t work, I’ll try something else!”