If you’ve ever found yourself overthinking or stressing about something too much, you’ve likely encountered a “thinking trap,” also known as a cognitive distortion. In fact, many people experience these several times throughout their daily lives and can affect the way they behave around others.
Thinking traps are more than just overthinking a certain subject, they often result in the truth or reality being hidden — sometimes replaced — by an inaccurate depiction of what’s really going on. Thinking traps are dangerous because they allow us to enter a negative mental loop that leaves us stuck searching for answers that are already there.
When thinking traps are present, rational thinking is non-existent and will cause disruptions in a person’s life. Learning to spot these negative thinking patterns and overcome them can bring more peace to your life.
What are ‘Thinking Traps?’
Thinking traps can appear in many forms and can be brought about by a variety of different actions, behaviors, events, and experiences. Psychologists and therapists have been studying thinking traps for several decades, giving us a detailed breakdown of what to look for in thinking traps.
Let’s take a look at some of the more common thinking traps we encounter often:
- Jumping to Conclusions – We encounter this thinking trap when we believe something to be absolutely true without any evidence to support it.
- Over-Generalizing – When we experience one negative thing, we expect that negative thing to happen every time in similar situations.
- Tunnel Vision – This thinking trap is experienced when we center our focus on the less-important things, while drowning out the more-important things.
- Magnifying & Minimizing – When we evaluate a certain situation, we will often magnify the negative and minimize the positive things.
- Personalizing – When something negative happens, we can be a little too quick to blame ourselves for what occurred instead of looking outward.
- Externalizing – In opposition to personalizing, externalizing is when we are too quick to place the blame on others instead of realizing our own part in the situation.
- Mind Reading – We love to assume we know what others are thinking, just like we love to assume we know what others know. In reality, it’s impossible to tell without asking.
We are all guilty of the above thinking traps and it happens more than we think. While there’s no way to stop negative things from happening or negative thoughts from appearing in your head, there are plenty of ways to counter those thoughts and find balance in your life.
Overcoming ‘Thinking Traps’
When a thinking trap goes unnoticed and continues to creep its way into the back of your mind — before, during, and after the event happened — you will likely find yourself stuck in a vicious cycle of negative thoughts. It can be tough to get out of the deeper you fall into it, but learning to spot these traps in the early stages can prevent a downward spiral.
When overcoming these traps, keeping a level and balanced mind is essential to staying positive. It’s impossible to stop ourselves from encountering negative thoughts, but it’s how we react to them that really matters.
Before you drown yourself in negative thoughts, ensure those thoughts are rational and accurate. Otherwise, you could be wasting your time and energy on something that’s not worth it.