Patterns of Problematic Thinking

If you imagine your thoughts as the gasoline that fuels your emotions, and your emotions as the car that drives your choices and direction, you will begin to understand Cognitive Behavioral theory, and you will have an important tool for changing your life.

Listed below are several types of patterns of problematic thinking that we may use in different situations. These patterns of problematic thinking often become automatic, habitual thoughts (gasoline) that elicit strong emotions (car) that cause us to engage in self-defeating behaviors (wrong direction).

Consider your own patterns of problematic thinking. Think about how those patterns affect you in your day-to-day life.

  1. Jumping to conclusions or predicting the future
  2. Exaggerating or minimizing a situation (blowing things way out of proportion or shrinking their importance inappropriately)
  3. Ignoring important parts of a situation
  4. Oversimplifying things as good/bad or right/wrong
  5. Over-generalizing from a single incident (a negative event is seen as a never-ending pattern)
  6. Mind reading (assuming people are thinking negatively of you when there is no definite evidence for this)
  7. Emotional reasoning (using your emotions as proof, e.g. “I feel fear so I must be in danger”)

Christine Muehlenweg, PhD