Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Fortune Telling

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Fortune telling is a cognitive distortion where you believe you can predict the future. You look into your imaginary crystal ball and see things going badly, taking this vivid imagery as indisputable fact. This attitude can cause a lot of needless distress and despair, and more importantly it often plays a huge role in your life choices, compelling you to avoid the potentially fulfilling situations that you are so sure will cause you problems.

We are all guilty of fortune telling at times, and in fact if we expect a good outcome and structure our life choices around this expectation, we probably wouldn’t be accused of fortune telling at all, instead being praised and respected for positive thinking. Being able to project ourselves into the future and contemplate various scenarios is part of what makes us special as human beings. It gives us a huge advantage over other organisms because we don’t necessarily have to act to discover the consequences of that action, instead doing it from the safety of our imaginations, useful indeed when those consequences would be problematic for us.

The problem with fortune telling is not projecting ourselves into the future to imagine consequences per se, but instead that we aren’t objectively considering the myriad possible scenarios, instead invariably falling on the one with a negative outcome, even though this negative outcome is still up in the air and usually highly unlikely.

A good way to break through this faulty thinking pattern is to make an honest appraisal of how correct your predictions have been in cases where you were forced into a situation, for whatever reason, despite the fact that you were sure of a negative result. Most people come to see that their fortune telling powers aren’t very good after all, that the bad results they predicted never came to pass. If you become aware that this is the case in your life, you can start opening yourself up to the possibility of good outcomes too, plus you’ll save yourself a lot of needless self-torment and distress that always accompanies waiting for something bad to happen.