Forms of False Thinking


Throughout the Dialogues, we will identify and begin to rewire your old habits of false-self thinking. Below are the ten most common forms of false-self thinking.

  1. All or Nothing Thinking. You look at things in absolute, black and white categories; shades of gray do not exist.
  2. Overgeneralization. You view a negative event as a never ending pattern of defeat.
  3. Mental Filter. You dwell on the negatives and iqnore the positives.
  4. “Should” Statements. You beat up on yourself or the other people with “shoulds,” “shouldn’ts,” “musts,” “oughts,” and “have tos.”
    • Should statements that are directed against yourself lead to guilt and depression:
      “I shouldn’t have left my wife! Now I’ve lost her forever and screwed up my whole life!” Or “I shouldn’t be so depressed. I should be better by now.”
    • Should statements that are directed against the world lead to frustration:
      “Darn it. The darn bus should be on time when I’m in such a hurry!”
    • Should statement that are directed against other people lead to anger:
      “You shouldn’t feel that way! You’ve got no right to say that!”
  5. Jumping to Conclusions. You jump to conclusions that are not warranted by the facts. Fortune telling and mind-reading are two common forms of jumping to conclusions.
    • Fortune telling: You predict that things will turn out badly. Before you give a talk you might get public speaking anxiety because you tell yourself: “My mind will go blank! I’ll make a total fool out of myself!”
    • Mind-reading: You assume that other people are upset with you or looking down on you.
  6. Magnification or Minimization. You blow things way out of proportion (magnification) or shrink them in your mind’s eye (minimization). I have also called this “the binocular trick.”
  7. Emotional Reasoning. You reason from how you feel: “I feel like an idiot; therefore I must be one” or “I feel hopeless, therefore I must be hopeless,” or “I feel inferior, therefore I must be inferior.”
  8. Discounting the Positives. You insist that the positives do not count.
  9. Labeling and Mislabeling.
    • Labeling is an extreme form of overgeneralization. You label your entire self based on some flaw or shortcoming. Instead of saying: “I made a mistake,” you tell yourself, “I’m a jerk” or a “loser.”
    • Mislabeling is where you use overly colorful and emotionally loaded words when you think about your problems. If you catch a cold before an athletic competition you might get excessively angry because you tell yourself “unfair” that you got a cold. This thought makes you feel like you have been singled out by God for some undeserved punishment. In contrast, if you tell yourself, “unfortunate” that you got a cold at just the wrong time, you will probably feel less frustrated.
  10. Personalization and Blame. You blame yourself (personalization) or others (blame) in a judgmental way.
    • Self-blame is usually associated with feelings such as inadequacy, guilt, shame and depression.
    • Other-blame is usually associated with feelings of frustration, resentment and anger.