The thinking styles that are not helping you

More often than not, faulty thinking patterns are at play in depression, anxiety and relationship issues, so it’s good to get to know them and see if you can identify any that you may be holding on to:

Here they are, do you recognise yourself in any of these?

All or nothing thinking

You see the world in black and white…this is tricky as there is a LOT of grey out there, and it can be a sign of perfectionism, which is not always helpful.


You see a single event as something that happens repeatedly, the clue here is when someone continually uses the words ‘always’ and ‘never’.

Mental filter

You focus on the negative when there are positive parts too, for example you hone in on that one bit of negative feedback you received from your boss.

Disqualifying the positive

You ignore positive events or compliments, by dismissing them as one-offs or as something anyone could do.

Jumping to conclusions:

You make negative assumptions without supporting evidence, there are two types here:

Mind reading you believe someone is thinking negatively about you, but you don’t really know if this is the case

Fortune telling you believe you can predict that there will be a negative outcome, but you don’t really have the evidence for this.


You pay too much attention to your shortcomings, but you then minimise your good qualities.

Emotional reasoning

I feel it, therefore it must be true…hmm not necessarily.

Should statements

‘I should, I must..’ usually directed against the self and contributes to feelings of frustration, anger and guilt. Women will recognise the feelings that go along with ‘I should not have eaten that piece of cake.’


A really extreme form of all or nothing thinking where you are harsh with the way you describe yourself or others; think of character assassination, where you assume the person is ‘all bad’.


You blame yourself for something that is not totally within your control – you may also blame others and can struggle to identify where you may have been contributing to a particular problem.

What to do about them?

A counsellor is trained to spot these thinking patterns. After only one or two sessions, some of these will appear and faulty thinking styles can be gently challenged in a safe environment.

Some of these can be more difficult to shift then others, depending on how long they have been around! Sometimes we feel safer thinking or behaving a certain way, even if we know it is not making us feel good.

Clients usually express a lot of relief at getting to know some of their not-so-helpful default thinking styles, and often report back to me on the beneficial impact this knowledge has on their lives.

Contact me if you’d like to know more đŸ™‚

*The above information is taken from the ‘Feeling Good Handbook’, where author and psychiatrist David Burns describes cognitive distortions, based on the work of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy guru Aaron Beck.

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