Unhelpful Thinking Styles: Mental Filtering.

Unhelpful thinking styles are well known, widely recognised, ways in which the way we think can create problems for us. We all pretty much to all of them. When we use them too much we create problems for ourselves.

Unhelpful thinking styles are a problem when they produce an unwanted emotion – depression or anxiety. When there is pattern in the thinking that leads to the unwanted emotion is an unhelpful thinking style.

Are You Mental Filtering?

This is when we filter in some information and filter out other information. We have to filter information all the time to make sense of it, but this is when it becomes excessive.

For example: you walk into work and there are five people. Four of them say good morning. One does not say anything and it’s the one that doesn’t say anything that you notice. You filter out the four good mornings and focus on the person who said nothing and then worry about what they think about us. This is an example of where we get a tiny bit of data and apply a filter to it and create worries for ourselves.

Another example:

You are out with your partner having a romantic dinner, and at the end of dinner you have a disagreement about whether to leave a tip or not. You stew on this disagreement in the car all the way home.

Thinking like this can make us feel bad in many ways. And we can change our behaviour and the way we communicate with other people.

You dwell on a single incident or piece of data and that produces an unwanted emotional reaction

You perceive the data to be negative without having, or ignoring, all the data you really need.

You have excluded other details of the whole picture, which means that you are not remembering all the other positive experiences of the event. If you focus on this negative bit, then it is likely that you’ll keep experiencing the negative feelings that go along with it.

Once you have spotted yourself doing this the approach s to look for and get the evidence. If you are worried about the fact that someone seems to be ignoring you – ask them if anything is wrong – is there anything that you have done which you could do better. The pain of the worry is huge compared to the pain of the information!

Work through an example where you have experienced this

Use a table like this to track your thinking and then challenge it.

Briefly describe the situation. What was the HOT thought that went through your mind? What feelings did youexperience consequent to your thinking? What more information did you need or what alternative interpretations are you ignoring?


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