As we become more stressed the tendency is for our thinking to become more negative. This acts like a trigger for pulling up negative memories as well as making negative associations about the people we associate and work with. Yet the way we interpret situations is absolutely key as to whether we feel sufficiently empowered or incapable of dealing with them.
We all have a certain bias when it comes to thinking and in this Sharepost I want to pick up on just one of these: jumping to negative conclusions. If we can learn to see these features in ourselves it presents an opportunity to turn things around and to establish a more balanced perspective. So, here are a few examples to illustrate the point:
Blaming other people or other circumstances is a prime example of defending ourselves where it may not be necessary or accurate. It happens when we feel vulnerable and when we want to deflect attention. But blaming can work two ways. We could jump to the conclusion that someone else is at fault as easily as assuming we are being blamed. All situations have a context so instead of blaming, look for the context; get things into perspective and if you do have a role in the problem try to take it on board with good grace.
Few if any people are blessed with the ability of precognition. Despite this another example of jumping to conclusions is predicting negative futures in terms of what is going to happen or what people are going to say. A feature of the negative mind-set is that self worth takes a battering but this usually isn’t based on reality. Jumping to the conclusion that others find you an idiot, or too slow, or that you have some other negative quality is what’s going on inside your head - which is likely to be quite different to what is actually happening.
Related to the previous example is the issue of mistaking emotions for facts. The fact that you feel unhappy, unsettled, angry or frustrated should not be confused with reality. We all experience emotional reactions to situations but the fact that you feel guilty or incompetent or bad, doesn’t make it so.
It’s difficult not to take things personally when we feel stressed or depressed but personalizing is yet another example of jumping to conclusions. The danger of negative moods is they become all consuming and those who have them may become self-absorbed. The danger here is that other people’s motives or problems aren’t being taken account of. The fact that someone seems a little off-hand may not be anything to do with you. They may be under pressure themselves, or have a headache, or they are preoccupied with some task or other concerns.
Pretty well any situation can be interpreted in a number of ways but we can all reduce the times we jump to negative conclusions by stepping back a little and recasting these situations so they embrace more balanced and less negative perspectives.
Related Shareposts: Unhelpful Thinking Styles: Exaggeration
Jerry Kennard, Ph.D., is a chartered psychologist and associate fellow of the British Psychological Society. Jerry’s clinical background is in mental health and, most recently, higher education. He is the author of various self-help books and is co-founder of positivityguides.net.