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Thinking Traps, also known as cognitive distortions refer to patterns of unhelpful or negative thinking. Getting caught in a thinking trap can lead to difficult feelings. Here are some common thinking traps with examples:

  • Mental Filter: Mental filtering occurs when we focus on a negative aspect of a situation and ignore all the positive aspects. For example, a student may only focus on the one bad grade they received and ignore all the good grades they have earned.
  • Black & White Thinking: This is when we might see things in only two extremes, such as good or bad, right or wrong. For example, someone may believe that they are either a complete success or a complete failure, with no middle ground.
  • Overgeneralising:  Overgeneralising is when we make broad and sweeping statements based on limited evidence. For example, someone may say “I always fail at everything” after failing one test.
  • Should’s\Must’s: Shoulding or Musting occurs when we place rigid demands on ourselves or others, such as “I should be able to do this perfectly” or “They must always be on time.”
  • Mindreading: Mindreading refers to when we assume we know what someone else is thinking without any evidence to support it. For example, “She must think I’m so stupid” when there is no indication that the other person has thought this.
  • Fortune Telling: Fortune telling occurs when we predict a negative outcome without any evidence to support it. For example, “I know I’m going to fail this test” before taking the test.
  • Catastrophising: This happens when we exaggerate the importance of a situation and see it as a catastrophe. For example, “I’m going to be homeless if I don’t get this job.”
  • Emotional Reasoning: Emotional reasoning describes a situation where a person believes that their emotions reflect reality. For example, “I feel like a failure, so I must be a failure.”
  • Minimising: Minimising occurs when we downplay our accomplishments or the positive aspects of a situation. For example, “It was no big deal” when receiving a compliment or recognition for their achievements.
  • Personalising: Personalising happens when a person believes that everything is their fault or that they are the cause of a problem. For example, “It’s my fault that the project failed” when they were only a small part of the team.
  • Labelling: Labelling happens when we assign a label or judgement to ourselves or others based on limited information. For example, “I’m just a failure” or “He’s just lazy.”
  • Disqualifying the Positive: This is when a person dismisses positive feedback or accomplishments as being not good enough. For example, “That compliment doesn’t count because it’s not from someone important.”