We hear a lot these days about climate change. Climates have been cyclic for years. Do we influence the weather patterns? I don’t know – and neither do many scientists.
But I do know that we have a huge influence on the climate of our relationships. This is especially important for our marriages.
Years ago Aaron Beck, founder of CBT, helped us understand cognitive distortions, the distorted thinking that gets us into so much trouble. They include All or Nothing Thinking, Overgeneralization, Mental Filtering, and Mind Reading among others.
When we identify and alter these thinking and communication errors, we can change the climate of our relationships.
Let’s take a closer look at these 4 distorted thinking patterns
All or Nothing Thinking
Everything is either black or white. No shades of grey. It is either/or thinking. You are either a saint or a sinner – good guy or bad guy.
This kind of thinking dehumanizes individuals because no one is either all good or all bad. When we have programmed ourselves to see things in such a rigid way, we miss all the wonderful parts of who we are.
A single negative event is made into a rule with key words such as never, always, no one, nobody, all, none, every, everybody.
These words slip into our vocabulary so easily and color how we see ourselves and others. “I always screw up” or “I’ll never learn” or “He/she will never change”. We use it with our kids as well. We will make lots of mistakes. Failure is part of growth, learning and achieving. If we hold a belief that we have to be perfect to be okay, we set up impossible rules for ourselves and others and establish a world without grace, forgiveness or development.
Mental Filtering – Ignoring the Positive
With this thinking error, we pay attention only to very selective information, usually what is negative and filter out other more positive information. Key words: loss, unfair, rejection, dangerous, hurt, stupid.
For example, when a person makes a mistake they continue to dwell on what they did wrong and never consider all the things they do right. The same is true for how we look at other person. We focus only on what we don’t like and ignore or filter out anything positive, setting up a destructive interactive pattern.
Mind Reading or Fortune Telling
We jump to conclusions. Our thinking is based on the assumption that everyone is just like us: they think like I do – they feel like I do. This belief says we all experience life exactly the same because we are all human beings.
Mind reading occurs when we interpret other people’s actions and intentions as being negative before we actually know or have checked it out. Our conclusions are reached without any real evidence.
We assume we know what the other person is thinking and feeling and we act in accordance with that assumption, resulting in unrealistic and undefined expectations, assumptions, confusion, mixed messages, anger, labeling and name calling.
If you hear yourself saying, “I just know, I can just tell, I have a strong hunch”, you are probably mind reading. When you anticipate things turning out badly, you are fortune telling and setting up a self-fulfilling prophecy that acts in accordance with a premise considered to be an established fact.
So how can you turn these into positive interactions?
There is so much we can do that will change our relationships for the good. This next week, turn each of the above thinking errors upside down.
- Think about the diversity of yourself and others and celebrate those differences
- Purposefully become aware of the words “never, always, etc.” and eliminate them from your communication
- Make a list of all the positive things you love about your partner and tell them every day. Do the same with yourself.
- Investigate situations and problems. Ask and inquire and collect more information before you draw a conclusion.
Receive a Free Consultation: Fill out the contact form to receive a free consultation about Personal Life Coaching, speaking engagements, retreats or teaching workshops for your church or women’s groups on relationships or other topics that affect our lives.
Sign up today to receive the entire series: http://eepurl.com/baaiQ1