Thinking Errors Equal Self-Imposed Stress

Believe it or not, your own thinking actively plays a role in creating your stress. At the heart of this distorted thinking are thinking errors, mistakes or distortions in your thinking that can result in excessive stress.

See if you fall prey to any of the following thinking errors and find out what you can do to fix them.

Blaming

When you commit the error of blaming, you distortedly blame life conditions or other people as the source of your negative feelings or situation.

You may think your life wouldn't be as bad as it is now if your parents had sent you to a better school or that it's your fault that your life is so unhappy. Now, while there may be some truth in these assertions, the blame is too global and doesn't recognize the influence of other factors.

By blaming someone else or some external situation, you fail to take any responsibility for your role in contributing to a possible negative outcome. This error can be a major source of anger and resentment. To correct this error, ask yourself if there might be other factors that could be contributing to the problem and not just the situation or the other person.

And even if someone or something else is at fault, focus on what you could do to change or fix the situation or problem.

Regret orientation

This error has you focusing on all the things you didn't do in the past. It's the "shoulda" error: You shoulda married Helen when you had the chance; or you shoulda bought IBM stock when it was ten cents; or you shouldn't have said what you did! This isn't to say that most people don't harbor some regrets. They do.

A healthy regret becomes a thinking error when you beat yourself up about it and hold onto that regret too tightly for too long. The antidote to a regret orientation is accepting what you've done and what has happened to you and then seeing if you can change the consequences.

Inability to disconfirm

This error prevents you from changing the way you think, despite new or additional information. For example, you feel that nobody really likes you. Someone points out that you do, in fact, have friends.

You immediately reject that information for a variety of reasons: She only likes you because she grew up with you; or he likes you, but he doesn't know what you're really like. It's as if your mind is made up.

Reactions like "You just don't understand" or "No, no. It's much more complicated than that!" may, at times, be reflective of this inability to disconfirm error. Ask yourself if perhaps your emotions are getting in the way and distorting your perceptions. Try to reframe the situation and see it in a more objective, realistic way.

Discounting positives

This error is a close cousin to the previous error. Here you minimize or trivialize any positive response to who you are or what you do. For example, when told that you look great, you believe and respond, "Oh, it's only the makeup!" Or, when you're doing a good job at work and being complimented, you respond, "It was luck," or "It wasn't hard at all. Anybody could have done it."

Often this error reflects some aspects of low self-esteem, fearing that being seen positively isn't a reflection of who you really are, and that this positive recognition may create expectations of you in the future that you feel you may not be able to meet. To correct this error, step back and reframe your situation. Ask yourself if you are being too quick to minimize and discount your traits, abilities, and accomplishments.

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