As you know from pretty much every self-help book out there, your thoughts become your reality. This is a fact, because we think our thoughts are true, and so they become self-fulfilling prophecies for us, reinforcing the initial thought and creating an ongoing spiral.
But what if you could argue back with the voices in your head? Does that make you crazy? No, it makes you human! We’re the only beings (that we know of) with self-reflexive consciousness, which means we have thoughts about our thoughts. This gives us a wonderful and sometimes dizzying array of possibilities for endless spirals of thought. So we can have thoughts that argue, undermine or disprove other thoughts, just as we can have thoughts that validate, prove and support others.
There are 14 ways which we can lie to ourselves and distort our thoughts. I’m going to teach you the first 7 today.
Overgeneralising is when we take a few facts, or even none at all and jump to conclusions, then assume them to be true. This distortion limits fine distinctions, and blinds you to many possibilities for a solution. Break the lie down through contextual thinking. Ask about the who, what, when, where, which, why? Get very specific, precise and pin down the facts. Question any assumptions or vague, generalising terms.
This distortion is about polarising extremes. Making things black and white, on or off. This or that. It gives only two extreme choices and cuts out everything in the middle. This kind of lie sets up extremes, obsessions and compulsions and undermines creativity and choice. Break this lie down by finding some middle ground between the extremes, scale options 1-10, look for the shades of grey.
This distortion puts people into boxes and confuses the word with the reality. Labelling overgeneralises and tries to reduce things to one word. “You’re just X./ I’m X.” It hides the complexity of reality and oversimplifies. Break this lie by asking, is this just a label? Is it just a word? Ask more questions to get specific and precise about what you’re talking about.
This distortion accuses and transfers blame for a problem to someone else. It wastes energy and emotion in the accusation, and blinds you to seeing your part in the problem and hence the solution. Break this by asking yourself: what am I responsible for? How have I contributed to this? Look for clarity, attempt to see the process of many actions that contributed to the problem and break it down. Take responsibility.
This distortion projects your thoughts, feelings and intuitions onto others without checking or clarifying with the person we are mind-reading about. Then we assume that our mind-reads are correct and judge the person by our own filters and guesses. This limits our possibilities of interacting with the person based on what’s really going on for them and projects yourself onto them, limiting communication. Break this down by returning to the facts that your noticed in your senses: what did you see, hear, feel? Question any assumptions. Ask yourself how do you know that? What is probable? Ask the person to clarify.
Prophesying is when you project your negative outcomes or ideas into the future, making them seem permanent in time, or never-ending. This limits your hope and belief, stops your vision, dreams and possibilities. It stops you from seeing possible solutions because you are expecting a negative outcome. Break this lie by thinking through the trends and factors that caused the events in the past, look for the consequences of actions and notice the probabilities. Question the thought that the future will be the same as the past, take action to change your behaviour based on the trends and consequences you discovered.
Emotionalising is when you take your emotions as an infallible source of truth that needs to be acted upon. “I feel like I want it, so I should have it!” This limits your choices to childlike, compulsive actions and stops you from utilising your emotions in a healthy way. You can break this internal lie by stepping back from your emotions and just observing yourself without judgement. Just observe the emotion and the facts, try and suspend your evaluations and just witness what is. This will increase your choices and options, and prevent you from acting impulsively based on emotion alone.
What are your thoughts on these thought distortions and lies?
Can you think of times when you do them?
Can you notice one or more that you ‘do’ often?
Reference: The information from this post is sourced from the Meta-Coach Certification Training Manuals, to find out more about Meta-Coaching go to: www.meta-coaching.org
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