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Some faulty thinking habits

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Let's look at a character called Smith who, unfortunately for him, illustrates all of the following faulty thinking habits.

Black and white thinking. Smith sees an event either as a success or a total failure. He evaluates everything in extremes. Take, for example, his thoughts about this week's tennis match: 'I've got to be perfect this week, I was so lousy last Sunday.'

Generalising. Smith needs only one example of behaviour to make a general rule for all times and all places. He forgets that behavior is very much determined by a specific situation, such as the other person's mood. For example, Smith's tennis partner, Ted, is not very talkative today. (Smith doesn't know that Ted's dog died last night.) Smith thinks, 'Joy doesn't like playing tennis with me-nobody has ever really enjoyed my company.'

Getting things out of proportion. Smith focuses on an event that would be unpleasant (for anyone), but builds the situation up to an extreme. For example, Smith has made a mistake at work. He thinks, 'How incompetent of me. That's blown my chances with the boss. No-one else would have made such a stupid mistake. I'm hopeless.' He also treats criticism as total rejection.

Personalising a situation. If someone is angry or upset, Smith thinks it is his fault or his responsibility. He feels that things are happening this way because of him. For example, tennis has been rained out. Joy was looking forward to the exercise, and now he is grumpy. Smith thinks, 'Joy is mad at me because this is the second Sunday that I've booked for tennis and it's rained. I'm embarrassed-it's rained two Sundays in a row!'

Setting unrealistic expectations. Smith believes that it is essential to be perfect and in control at all times. For example, he finds taking his two-year-old, Sam, to a restaurant an irritating experience. He loses his temper with Sam because he is messy and noisy. Smith thinks, 'I should be able to control Sam better. I'm a hopeless parent, always yelling at him.'

Arbitrary inference. Smith often draws conclusions or inferences from situations where there is no evidence to support conclusions. He then uses these inferences to put himself down. For example, 'Everyone else looks happy all the time. I should be happy all the time. I'm a failure if I feels unhappy.'

Selective abstraction. Smith is sensitive, always on the lookout for signs of rejection or criticism. He dwells on things that others have said or done and interprets them as critical of himself. 'Joy rushed off straight after tennis today. I thinks he finds me boring. He didn't want to stop for coffee.' (Joy was, in fact, under orders to be home on time after tennis to put on the barbecue for guests.)

Best Regards

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