Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Mind Reading Faulty Thinking Pattern

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Mind Reading is a faulty thinking pattern that we are all guilty of engaging in sometimes. It’s when we are sure of the thoughts of those around us without any concrete evidence. Mind reading is turning speculation, an educated guess, into an ironclad truth.

Trying to put ourselves in the shoes of others, to guess their thoughts, feelings, and motivations, is adaptive in and of itself, it helps us navigate the world, to make sense of complicated interactions. So there’s nothing wrong with this speculative enterprise per se; What makes the faulty thinking pattern of mind reading dysfunctional is that a guess is turned into a fact, and that this ‘fact’ is almost always a negative evaluation of us.

The middle stage of perception, between activating event and consequence, is what cognitive behavioral therapists are interested in, and it’s hopefully obvious that implanting negative opinions about us into others without any evidence can have a really unnecessary detrimental effect on our own thoughts, behaviors, and emotional states. We act as if they thought these things even though it’s highly likely that they don’t.

If these ideas fit for you the first step is to raise your awareness level in the moment while you’re engaging in mind reading and ask yourself “Do I have any concrete evidence to support my belief, and if so what is it?” You don’t want to throw the baby out with the bathwater, some people probably do hold negative evaluations of you, and there are some situations where your words or actions will surely lead to negative attitudes towards you. It’s nice to know that so that you can stop the train in its tracks before any damage is done. But you do want to test your perception and realize that at best your judgments about what others are thinking about you are educated guesses, not concrete facts.