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Unhelpful thinking styles

If you can identify your unhelpful thinking styles, then you can start to notice them and that can help you challenge or distance yourself from those thoughts.

Thinking like a lawyer?

We can all develop unhelpful thinking styles at particular times of our lives, such as the ones described below.  If you can identify your unhelpful thinking styles, then you can start to notice them and that can help you challenge or distance yourself from those thoughts and see your situation in a different or more helpful way.
Brain 2
  • All or nothing – Sometimes called black and white thinking, this is believing that something or someone can only be good or bad, or everything has to be perfect and if it isn’t  you’ve failed; rather that anything in between or shades of grey
  • Mental filter – Only paying attention to certain types of evidence, for example ignoring the times you have been praised in favour of times you’ve been criticised, or focusing on your failures rather than your achievements.
    Jumping to conclusions – assuming you know what others are thinking, or that you know what the outcome of a situation will be, none of us can predict the future.
  • Emotional reasoning – assuming because you feel a certain way it must be true, for example just because you think ‘my boss hates me’ doesn’t mean she does. Feelings are just a reaction to thoughts.
    Labelling – Assigning unhelpful labels to yourself or others such as ‘weak’ or ‘stupid’
  • Over-generalising – Seeing a pattern based on a single event - for example having a difficult meeting with a client and then assuming future interactions will be similar.
  • Disqualifying the positive – Discounting the good things that have happened to you as if they were a one-off or a fluke.
  • Catastrophising/minimastion – blowing things out of proportion and believing the worst possible thing will happen or shrinking something to make it seem less important.
  • Shoulds and musts  – thinking or saying  ‘I should’ and  ‘I must’ puts pressure on ourselves and sets up unrealistic expectations.
  • Personalisation – taking responsibility or taking the blame for something that wasn’t your fault.
Tips for dealing with unhelpful thinking styles
  • Focus on the here and now - what is actually happening in this moment. Is there another perspective?
  • Talk to people about your feelings – ask them for feedback
  • Keep a list or folder of your achievements and look at it when you need to.
  • Talk to yourself as you would a friend.
  • Distract yourself from your thoughts – read a book, take some exercise, see a friend, do something you enjoy.
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