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The Ten Twisted Forms of Thinking

The ten twisted forms of thinking
The ten twisted forms of thinking

In this week’s Success Newsletter, I would like to reveal the 10 twisted ways of thinking and how to change them.

First a quick update:

“Can conforming lead to evil acts?”
Click to read the interview & conversation with Professor Philip Zimbardo, Professor Emeritus at Stanford University, revealing that when one loses his/her individuality and conforms, one can become dehumanized and can result in committing acts of evil.

Now, let’s talk about the ten twisted ways of thinking and how to change them.

The way we view the world determines our happiness, success and above all, our emotional freedom & inner peace. Many of us walk around with not just a twisted view of the world but a twisted way of thinking. The following 10 forms of twisted thinking are summaries from Dr. David Burns and his book “Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy.” He also has a handbook with extensive exercises designed to change the way you think about & perceive the world by transforming your thinking patterns and filters.

The Ten Forms of Twisted Thinking

1. All‑or‑nothing thinking
You see things in black‑or‑white categories. If a situation falls short of perfect, you see it as a total failure. When a young woman on a diet ate a spoonful of ice cream, she told herself, “I’ve blown my diet completely.” This thought upset her so much that she gobbled down an entire quart of ice cream!

2. Over-generalization
You see a single negative event, such as a romantic rejection or a career reversal, as a never‑ending pattern of defeat by using words such as “always” or “never” when you think about it. A depressed salesman became terribly upset when he noticed bird dung on the windshield of his car. He told himself, “Just my luck! Birds are always crapping on my car!”

3. Mental filter
You pick out a single negative detail and dwell on it exclusively, so that your vision of all of reality becomes darkened, like the drop of ink that discolors a beaker of water. Example: You receive many positive comments about your presentation to a group of associates at work, but one of them says something mildly critical. You obsess about his reaction for days and ignore all the positive feedback.

4. Discounting the positive
You reject positive experiences by insisting they “don’t count.” If you do a good job, you may tell yourself that it wasn’t good enough or that anyone could have done as well. Discounting the positive takes the joy out of life and makes you feel inadequate and unrewarded.

5. Jumping to conclusions
You interpret things negatively when there are no facts to support your conclusion.
–       Mind reading: Without checking it out, you arbitrarily conclude that someone is reacting negatively to you.

–       Fortune‑telling: You predict that things will turn our badly. Before a test you may tell yourself, ‘I m really going to blow it. What if I flunk?” If you’re depressed you may tell yourself, “I’ll never get better.”

6. Magnification
You exaggerate the importance of your problems and shortcomings, or you minimize the importance of your desirable qualities. This is also called the “binocular trick.”

7. Emotional reasoning
You assume that your negative emotions necessarily reflect the way things really are: “I feel terrified about going on air planes. It must be very dangerous to fly.” Or “I feel guilty. I must be a rotten person.” Or ”I feel angry. This proves I’m being treated unfairly. Or “I feel so inferior. This means I’m a second‑rate person.” Or “I feel hopeless. I must really be hopeless. ”

8. “Should statements”
You tell yourself that things should be the way you hoped or expected them to be. After playing a difficult piece on the piano, a gifted pianist told herself, ”I shouldn’t have made so many mistakes.” This made her feel so disgusted that she quit practicing for several days. ‘Musts,’ ‘oughts’ and ‘’have tos’ are similar offenders.

“Should statements” that are directed against yourself lead to guilt and frustration. Should statements that are directed against other people or the world in general lead to anger and frustration: “He shouldn’t be so stubborn and argumentative.”

Many people try to motivate themselves with ‘should’ and ‘shouldn’ts’, as if they were delinquents who had to be punished before they could be expected to do anything. “I shouldn’t t eat that doughnut.” This usually doesn’t work because all these ‘shoulds’ and ‘musts’ make you feel rebellious and you get the urge to do just the opposite. Dr. Albert Ellis has called this “musterbation.” — the “shouldy” approach to life.

9. Labeling
Labeling is an extreme form of all‑or-nothing thinking. Instead of saying “I made a mistake,” you attach a negative label to yourself: “I’m a loser.” You might also label yourself “a fool” or “a failure” or “a jerk.” Labeling is quite irrational because you are not the same as what you do. Human beings exist, but “fools,” “losers,” and “jerks” do not. These labels are just useless abstractions that lead to anger, anxiety, frustration, and low self-esteem.

You may also label others. When someone does something that rubs you the wrong way, you may tell yourself: “He’s an S.O.B.” Then you feel that the problem is with that person’s “character” or “essence” instead of with their thinking or behavior. You see them as totally bad. This makes you feel hostile and hopeless about improving things and leaves little room for constructive communication.

10. Personalization and blame
Personalization occurs when you hold yourself personally responsible for an event that isn’t entirely under your control

When a woman received a note that her child was having difficulties at school, she told herself, “This shows what a bad mother I am,” instead of trying to pinpoint the cause of the problem so that she could be helpful to her child. When another woman’s husband beat her, she told herself, “If only I were better in bed, he wouldn’t beat me.” Personalization leads to guilt, shame, and feelings of inadequacy.

Some people do the opposite. They blame other people or their circumstances for their problems, and they overlook ways that they might be contributing to the problem: “The reason my marriage is so lousy is because my spouse is totally unreasonable.” Blame usually doesn’t work very well because other people will resent being the scapegoat and they will just toss the blame right back in your lap. It’s like the game of hot potato – no one wants to get stuck with it. Click to read more about it.

Consider writing out examples of each of the listed patterns above and identify which one is your default mode. Next begin to catch yourself when engaging in that pattern and immediately change it.

When we can change the way we see the world, the world feels different and we respond to it accordingly. If we feel the world is a mean place, we expect people to be mean and we treat them accordingly – maybe we put up walls, hide our real feelings, mistrust people or we walk around angry, defensive and bitter. However, note, that neither I nor Dr. Burns are encouraging people to live in denial by being positive all the time. There are occasions for solemnity, seriousness and even grieving. The balance is found in being optimistic which is very different from being positive and thus potentially unrealistic. Optimism encourages preparation and planning while blind positivity encourages denial and distortion.

If you would like personal help to change subconscious beliefs and release yourself from the past, consider a one-on-one session with me: Get started by clicking this link.

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I wish you the best and remind you “Believe in yourself -You deserve the best!”

Patrick Wanis Ph.D.
Celebrity Life Coach, Human Behavior & Relationship Expert & SRTT Therapist

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