Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Faulty Thinking Patterns
A Prison of Our Own Making
We get stuck in our lives and relationships because, with various entrenched patterns of thought taken to be objective truth in place, there really aren’t any good options for movement available. We get trapped in prisons of our own making without realizing it. We can’t or won’t see the various underlying biases that inexorably push us towards the conclusion “Yeah this situation sucks but there’s nothing to be done about it.”
Opening Up a Path for Change
So a huge part of opening up a path for change is isolating and challenging the array of faulty thinking patterns. In our experience, the most effective way to do this with clients is to reduce the attached stigma and shame by pointing out that faulty thinking patterns are a human problem, something we all fall victim to sometimes. They aren’t indicative of stupidity or mental illness or any other unwanted trait but are rather hardwired ways of interpreting the world that actually serve an purpose much of the time.
Take mind reading, for example, which is the faulty thinking pattern where we imagine the thoughts, feelings, and motivations of those around us despite the lack of tangible, concrete evidence to support the validity of our suppositions. Mind reading is a powerful tool in that we’re often exactly right about the hidden motivations of others and our powers of deduction allow us to make the right behavioral choices. Regardless of the faulty thinking pattern in question, it’s not necessarily wrong and in fact might just be spot on. But we often are wrong, and the problem is that we tend to take it for granted, despite the lack of concrete evidence, that we’re completely right, and with that false premise in place we move through the world with tunnel vision.
So the key is to take on a non-judgmental, curious attitude. It’s to act like a scientist or an investigative journalist and to start actively questioning whether or not we have enough tangible evidence to support the thinking pattern we’ve taken to be objective truth up until now. Some common faulty thinking patterns are should statements, all or nothing thinking, disqualifying the positives, jumping to conclusions, mind reading, fortune telling, and catastrophizing. When we can recognize ourselves falling victim to these faulty thinking patterns in the moment and actively challenge their validity we’re already going along way towards better mental health and a more accurate picture of reality.