8 Thinking Errors That You May be Experiencing Right Now
Written by Lauren Gumpert
01 Anxiety, fear and guilt-tripping are on the incline amidst the Covid-19 pandemic.
02 With the increase in anxiety, Lauren is trying to relearn something her therapist taught her years ago: thoughts are not facts.
03 None of us can predict the future. No one knows what is going to happen a day, a week, or a month from now. Try not to let thoughts or predictions about the future get the best of you.
I’m trying something new. Whenever shit hits the fan, I ask myself: What can I learn from this?
Right now, I am re-learning something that my therapist taught me years ago when I was first diagnosed with OCD: Thoughts are not facts.
Thoughts happen. They are the product of a normal, healthy, functioning brain. In fact, our brain generates tens of thousands of thoughts per day.
Often, the thoughts are triggered by something in our environment (aka Covid-19) and most of them are irrational, nonsensical and untrue. Many of us are not even aware of our thoughts. Endless chatter fills our minds and it feels normal. At times, we get “stuck” in harmful thinking patterns without even realizing it.
Now more than ever, we need to be aware of our thoughts and how they are affecting our lives and relationships. We are all spending more time at home alone with our minds, and this can cause our mental health to nosedive. I don’t know about you, but I’ve been getting wrapped up in some unproductive thinking patterns over the past couple of days. And it has done nothing but cause stress. The first step to getting out of these thinking habits is to recognize when they are taking place.
Here are 8 thinking errors that you may be experiencing right now:
1) Black or White Thinking
One thing that I’ve been thinking a lot recently is “you’re either part of the problem or the solution.” This is flawed thinking, because we are all part of the problem and the solution. Everything is a mixture of both bad and good; not simply one or the other. There is always grey area. For example, there will likely be some good that comes from the Coronavirus, even though it seems all bad right now.
Are you thinking things like: No one is taking this seriously!! Everyone is going about their lives as usual! This is obviously not true, but it’s easy to get stuck in this train of thought when you see others out-and-about who appear unaffected.
3) Filtering Out the Positive
Media makes this easy, but you also have a choice in what you consume and how you respond. Are you going to dwell on the one piece of negative news, or instead focus on something positive? My mind feels like it has been overcome by the coronavirus. But the truth is that life goes on – there are still a lot of good things happening in the world, whether you believe it or not.
You become trapped in this thinking error any time you fool yourself into believing that you know what someone else is thinking or feeling, or why they are behaving a certain way. You don’t! Everyone is responding to these events differently, and it’s not fair to judge. We do not know what their motives or experiences are.
Any time that you assume the worst outcome, you’re catastrophizing. The worst-case scenario does not often come to fruition. Yes, times are tough right now, but probably not as horrible as you’re making them out to be in your mind.
6) Emotional Reasoning
Emotional reasoning occurs when we assume that our feelings have meaning. For example: “I feel so guilty about going to the store, I must have transmitted the virus” or “I’m feeling a bit down, probably because the world is going to hell in a handbasket.” False! Like thoughts, feelings often don’t mean anything – they are just our body’s reaction to what is happening around us.
7) Predicting the Future
None of us can predict the future. Not religious leaders, not doctors, not scientists, not social media influencers. No one knows what is going to happen a day, a week, or a month from now. Try not to let thoughts or predictions about the future get the best of you.
8) Shaming (self or others)
Personal shaming and guilt-tripping is happening all over television and social media, but they are not doing us any good. A clue that you’ve gotten stuck in this thinking error is if any time that you find yourself using the word “should.”
For example, you may think “They should have done this” or “I should do that.” The word "should" itself automatically takes us out of the present moment. What can you do realistically, right here and now? Do that instead of getting caught in a “should” shaming trap. Remember, you can’t control anyone or anything except yourself.
In summary, don’t believe everything you think! Try to become more aware of your thought patterns (mindfulness mediation really helps with this) so that you don’t make an already hard situation even harder. Like one of my favorite authors, Glennon Doyle, always says: “We can do hard things.” Though we may be apart physically, we are all going through this together.
About the author
Lauren is a writer, yoga teacher, and Speech-Language Therapist who struggles with anxiety, depression, and OCD. She shares about her healing journey and offers encouragement and inspiration on her blog, www.fullwellself.com. You can also connect with her on twitter and instagram @fullwellself.