Have you noticed that you have certain types of thoughts that keep recurring? Or that you regularly think in a certain way, thus becoming habitual? The different ways of thinking are called ‘thinking styles’. Thinking styles have such an automatic character that you are often not even aware of them. Thinking styles can be positive but can also have a negative side. When a negative thinking style is recurring, it can affect you negatively. These negative thinking styles do not always correspond with reality, which is why we sometimes call them ‘thinking errors’.

There are many different types of negative thinking styles. Some are more common than others, but you can find the most well-known in the table below. By becoming aware of your thinking styles, you can also begin to correct yourself. Which ones do you recognize in yourself?


Thinking style Characterized by Example of thoughts
Mental Filter You mainly focus on the negative. You do not take neutral or positive events into account or tend to experience them as negative. – I did some shopping for my mom, but I forgot one thing. I am so stupid!


– I passed my test, but I couldn’t even answer the easiest question. How stupid am I?!

Catastrophizing You exaggerate the consequences. You experience situations as disastrous, terrible or intolerable. – If I don’t hear from her soon, then I’m sure she died in an accident.

– The presentation will go wrong and then they will fire me immediately.

All-or-nothing thinking You judge situations in extremes. Something, for example, either happens never’ or ‘always’. Something is either entirely good or entirely bad. With you, there is no middle ground. – If I’m not a perfect parent, then I’m a completely worthless person.

– If I don’t sleep for 8 hours, I’m completely off all day.

– If I can’t do this, then I can’t do anything.

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. – He must be cranky because I didn’t run the errands.

– When people look at me at a party, I think “there is something wrong with me”.

– She was catty to me because I did something wrong.

Mind-reading You think you know what someone else is thinking. You fill in for others what they think of you. – She looks at me and thinks I’m boring.

– If I ask her to take me into account, I’m sure she’ll get angry.

– She thinks I don’t know anything about this.

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. – I should always be ready to help another. If I don’t help them, I’m a bad friend.

– It is terrible that I made a mistake. I should always do it right.

Emotional reasoning You use your feelings as proof that your thoughts are correct. – I feel like I’m not capable, so I’m not going to succeed.

– I feel scared, so this is dangerous!

Overgeneralization You draw a general conclusion based on one or a few experiences. – I passed the test. I might as well quit school now!

– I’m always unlucky!

Predicting the future You think you know what will happen in advance.  – I ordered a package, but I know for sure that it will arrive when I’m not there.

– If I leave home earlier, there will definitely be a traffic jam.


Measuring with two different scales You are more critical of yourself than you are of others. – 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.


Exaggeration or downplaying You make something bigger than it is or you wrongly write something off.  – I got a good grade for a test, but it was very easy, so it doesn’t count.
Excluding the positive Positive experiences do not count or are suppressed. – I received a compliment that I look good, but it’s not that big of a deal.
If only I had You often worry about situations from the past, without it being of any use to you. – If only I hadn’t made such a crazy comment.

– If only I had left home earlier, I would have been on time.

– If only I had done things differently, my relationship would not be over now.


Drawing hasty conclusions You take on a negative perspective when there is no evidence to actually support your conclusion. – Someone responds to my nice comment without a smile. Apparently, he doesn’t like me.


– 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. – I didn’t know the answer to his question. I am such a loser.

-I was a few minutes late for work today. I am such a bad employee.

Bringing up the past You selectively remember situations from the past. I am having bad luck again. Today I was late, 2 weeks ago I forgot an important meeting and last month I was sick for an entire day!
Box thinking This is an extreme form of overgeneralization. Instead of describing a mistake, you immediately pigeon-hole people. – I drove through a red light. I am such a bad driver.

– He forgot a friend’s birthday. He is such a typical bad friend.





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