Programme: Learning to think differently

4. We all have thinking errors

Reading time: 2 minutes


In the previous cards, you explored two ways to learn to think differently. One of these tools is thought observation and the other is challenging your thoughts. Both tools are effective ways to deal with your thoughts in a different way. You may have discovered that you have many thoughts each day, and that some of these thoughts are quite persistent and return day after day. These thoughts become automatic thoughts. The more often a particular thought comes to us, the more likely we are to believe it to be true.


In this card, you will be working on exploring your thoughts further. Some automatic thoughts are true, but many are untrue or only partly true. In the 1960’s, psychiatrist and psycho-therapist Aaron T. Beck made a study of these thoughts based on the experiences of his clients. He compiled this list of common errors of thinking:

  • Black and white thinking
    You think in terms of ‘all or nothing’ - there is no middle ground. This is an unrealistic way to think. Life is seldom black and white. 

  • Labelling
    Instead of saying ‘I have made a mistake’, you say ‘I am a failure’. You are quick to label yourself and others. This is inhibiting and restrictive.

  • Overgeneralisation
    If one negative thing happens, you assume that it will always be this way. You think in patterns of accidents and failures and you often use words such as everything, nothing, everyone, always, never, nobody.

  • Mental filtering
    You only notice the negative aspects of any situation. You ignore neutral or positive experiences or you distort them so that they appear negative to you. 

  • Thought-reading
    You assume that everyone else thinks the same way as you. 

  • Predicting the future
    You assume that bad things are going to happen. Predicting the future and thought-reading can become self-fulfilling prophecies.

  • ‘Should…’ thinking
    You criticise  yourself and others - you give orders, set rules and make threats and demands. ‘Should statements’ are irrational. 

  • Self-blame
    You blame yourself for things that you are not responsible for or for things that you are only partially responsible for. You blame yourself for every negative occurrence. 


Reflect & connect

Answer these questions and share them with your online psychologist and/or a friend: 

1. Which thinking errors do you make?

2. Which situations or people trigger these thinking errors?

3. Which questions from the previous card help you to challenge your errors of thinking?
 

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