Faulty thinking patterns

Changing faulty thinking

There are certain ways in which we think – thinking patterns – that can sometimes give us a biased view of our environment. This bias can become more noticeable, and more destructive, in some people when they are stressed. Outlined below are some ways by which it is possible to change recognised thinking patterns for the better.


Does it only need a couple of things to go wrong for your mind to make a quantum leap and imagine that everything is going wrong, that your life is caving in around you? This kind of response to stress is an over-generalised thinking pattern. And again, it is one that can be learned from parents. Did they fly off the handle when things went wrong or did they calmly take problems in their stride.

Hilary was the senior administrator for a large accountancy firm. In the year that she had been there, she had been allowed a free rein to do what she wanted. When the annual management review found that a couple of changes needed to be made, Hilary was astounded and upset.

She began to feel that ‘everything’ at work was changing and she believed that she no longer enjoyed her work. She became so anxious about the changes that needed to be made that she decided that the only way round it was to begin looking for a new job, further adding to her stress.

Over-generalised thinking is stressful in itself but it became worse if, like Hilary, you make decisions on the back of it and instead of finding solutions for the few things that need changing, decide to move away from the environment altogether.

Strategy for change

Separate out the aspects of your life that you find stressful from those that are working well. Write them down in two columns. How easy or difficult did you find this exercise? The harder you found it, the more likely it is that you are over-generalising.

Aspects of life list
Working well Stressful
Love life Demands of work
Relationship with L (boss) Competition between colleagues
Friendship with P and S Health (backache in particular)
Financial rewards Not enough time with children
Meeting new and interesting people all the time at work

You might find it easier to look at specific aspects of your life – for example, relationships, leisure activities, staying healthy, and working life. When you have completed the lists, you will discover that your life is not all gloom and despondency and have a clearer picture of what is good. In the future, do not ignore the good bits!

Next we’ll look at selective and negative thinking and coping strategies for change.

Selective and negative thinking >>

Text Copyright © Alix Needham
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