Have you noticed that you have certain types of thoughts that keep coming back? Or that you regularly think in a certain way, which has led it to become a habit of sorts? Do these thoughts give you cravings? These ways of thinking are also referred to as ‘thinking styles’.

Thinking styles are often so automatic that you are not even aware of them. Thinking styles can also have a negative effect. When a negative thinking style keeps coming back, it can negatively affect your life. These negative thinking styles do not always correspond with reality, which is why we sometimes refer to them as ‘thinking errors’.

By becoming aware of your thinking styles, you can also begin to correct them.

 

Examples of thinking styles

There are different types of negative thinking styles. Below, you can find a list of the best-known thinking styles. Which ones do you identify with? What are the consequences of these thoughts?

 

Mental filter

You mainly focus on the negative. You do not take into account neutral or positive events or see them as negative. For example:

  • I have told my coach honestly about my relapse. He is going to think I’m stupid!
  • I passed my test, but I didn’t even know the answer to the easiest question. I am so stupid!

 

Disaster thinking

You exaggerate the consequences. You see situations as disastrous, terrible or intolerable. For example:

  • If I relapse again, I’ll never be okay.
  • My friends will probably find me very boring if I don’t smoke cannabis with them at birthday parties. They will not want to hang out with me anymore.

 

All-or-nothing thinking

You judge your situations in extremes. For example, something either happens ’never’ or ‘always’. Something is either completely good or completely bad. You don’t see a middle ground. Examples:

  • If I’m not a perfect parent, I’m a completely worthless person.
  • I had 1 drink, so now, it doesn’t matter anymore. I might as well continue drinking.
  • If I can’t stop using it for 3 months, I’ll never be able to stop.

 

Personalizing

When you take something personally, you think that everything people do or say has something to do with you. You put all the responsibility and guilt on yourself or your actions. Examples could be:

  • He must be grumpy because I didn’t want to have a drink.
  • If I don’t drink alcohol at a party, then I don’t belong here.

 

Mind reading

You think you know what someone else is thinking. You fill in for others what they think of you. For example:

  • You see, she thinks I’m boring if I don’t go to a party.
  • If I ask her to take me into account, I’m sure she’ll get angry.
  • He thinks I’m a failure because I’ve relapsed again.

 

Must-thinking

When you use this thinking style, you have rules and norms that you and others must meet. If you or others don’t meet these rules, you feel horrified. For example:

  • I always have to be fun when I go out with friends. If I don’t, then I’m a bad friend.
  • It’s terrible that I called in sick for work after a relapse. Now my boss thinks I’m not functioning properly.

 

Emotional reasoning

You use your feelings as proof that your thoughts are correct. For example:

  • I feel like I can’t, so I’m not going to be able to stop gambling.
  • I feel lonely and this will never go away if I cannot drink alcohol.

 

Overgeneralization

You draw a general conclusion based on one or a few experiences. For example:

  • I have relapsed, so I might as well stop treatment now.
  • I always have bad luck.

 

Predicting the future

You think you know what will happen in advance. For example:

  • If I tell my friends about my addiction, they will probably think I’m a weakling.
  • If I leave home earlier, there will definitely be a traffic jam.

 

Measuring with two measures

You are more critical of yourself than others. For example:

  • If others show their emotions, that’s okay. If I do it, it is a sign of weakness.
  • Others may make mistakes, but I have to do everything right during my recovery process.

 

Exaggerating or downplaying

You make something bigger than it is or you wrongly write something off. For example:

  • I have stopped smoking for two months now. But it’s not that difficult, anyone can do it.

 

Excluding the positive

Positive experiences do not count or are suppressed. For example:

  • I received a compliment because I showed my vulnerabilities in therapy, but it’s not that big of a deal.

 

“If only I had…”

You often worry about situations from the past, without it being any use to you. For example:

  • If only I hadn’t made such a silly comment to a colleague during a meeting.
  • If only I had been honest about my porn addiction before, my relationship wouldn’t be over now.

 

Jumping to conclusions

You take a negative perspective, when there is actually no evidence to support your conclusion. For example:

  • Someone responds to my nice comment without a smile. Apparently, he doesn’t like me now that I don’t drink alcohol.
  • Someone is ignoring my message on WhatsApp. Apparently, I am not worth responding to.

 

Labelling

You have a negative opinion about yourself, without considering whether this is actually a reflection of reality. For example:

  • I didn’t know the answer to his question. I am such a loser.
  • Today I told my colleagues about my addiction. Now they must think I’m weird.

 

Bringing up the past

You selectively remember situations from the past. For example:

  • I’m having bad luck again. Today I was late, 2 weeks ago I was rejected by my date and last month I had car trouble!

 

Box thinking

This is an extreme form of overgeneralization. Instead of describing a mistake, you put someone directly in a box. For example:

  • I started drinking again after 3 months. I have no backbone at all.
  • He forgot a friend’s birthday. What a typical bad friend.

 

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