Why do I think it's all wrong

How to avoid unhealthy thinking mistakes

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If one could generate electricity with pondering, I would have solved the energy question: I would simply be connected to a pondering electricity network, into which I could regularly feed energy. Then at least it would be good for something that I rack my brains. I also like to paint myself worst caseScenarios. If an eventuality appears on the horizon, I prepared myself for the worst the day before yesterday. I can also get excited about trivialities - another constant source of energy! It is enough if the reality deviates a bit from my ideas, e.g. E.g. when the DPD courier drops my parcel on the ground floor while I wait for the doorbell to ring in the attic.

In combination with a lack of sleep and a lack of vacation, these thinking habits can develop into permanent irritation and cynicism. Then I don't like myself. The problem with negative thoughts is also: They seem small and inconspicuous to us, but they solidify and multiply. While we believe that the big events in life matter, the everyday frustration with the job and the neighbors quietly and secretly pelts us happiness. Dale Carnegie observed this 70 years ago in “Don't Worry - Live!”: “Often times we behave bravely when there are major tragedies in our lives - and then we let little things, some anger, get us down that are not worse as a sore throat. " 1 Eckart von Hirschhausen also writes: "If we pay attention to small things, it is usually to annoy us." 2

I have often made up my mind for the future more relaxed and more carefree to be. But some mechanisms have become deeply burned in through repetition. I can't turn it off with sheer willpower. These trails work sometimes for and sometimes against me, i. That is, positive thoughts solidify just like negative thoughts. There would be B. the belief that you are not good, successful or pretty enough or the belief that you always have to make optimal decisions. Such thoughts are an example of how not correct our brain can lie. It lies often wrong, write Jeffrey Schwartz and Rebecca Gladding. The psychologists have examined the human brain using MRI scans and, in “You are not your brain”, show on the basis of their studies why we should rather question the messages of our brain more often, because just because a thought seems plausible to us does not have to be true be.

Fortunately, we can reprogram our brains; i.e., create new paths. However, this is difficult and tedious. But you can start if you look at your own thinking mistakes. They cost energy and also make you unhappy. The following selection is based on Schwartz ’and Gladdings“ You are not your brain ”(English title:“ You are more than your brain ”) and David Burns’ bestseller “Feeling Good”, which they also cite.

Mistake # 1: Thinking in black and white

We are prone to extremes; that is, everything is going great or really bad. Thumbs up or thumbs down - the average is no good to flaunt him on Instagram anyway. Boahr-ey moments are in demand there instead of perfectly okay Tuesdays.

Black and white thinking is also convenient because it provides abbreviations for the brain. It would be too strenuous to always look at everything in a balanced and differentiated way. The problem with this is that it's easy to shoot yourself in the negative. Then you complain about everything and everyone. Your partner drives you crazy, even though you initially found the small speech impediment adorable or at least could overlook it. Or you don't leave good hair on your job, your colleagues or your apartment. We also tend to overlook the positive aspects of ourselves. If something doesn't work, we say: “I knew I couldn't do it!” And thus strengthen our beliefs. Other typical thoughts in black and white drawers are:

  • Everything is going wrong right now.
  • That was probably nothing.
  • He doesn't like me so he hates me.
  • What I can't do perfectly, I don't even try.

Perfectionism is also a form of black and white thinking. I know what I'm talking about because when I write I often think: It's not good enough so leave it! or: How bad was that! The former Echt singer Kim Frank said in a recent interview: When he looks back on his previous work, then with the thought that it was the best that he could do at the time within the scope of his possibilities.3 It is therefore not about perfection, but about solid performance at the given time under given circumstances. So instead of grumbling, one could try these thoughts:

  • I don't always have to give 120 percent.
  • I do my best.

Thinking in grayscale is more exhausting and boring than dramatizing, but it is healthier in the long term. After all, depressed patients no longer see anything good in their life. You have simply forgotten how to do it and have to practice it again - often in connection with psychotherapy. In order not to get sick in the first place, you should strengthen your positive thoughts. I try to remember that every day, including black Days. Recently z. B. our aquarium. 250 liters of water poured into the living room within a few minutes. When the turtle was already on dry land and we were still juggling buckets, I thought about happiness in misfortune. We were just at home, not on the road or on vacation. We were therefore able to collect most of the water and save our tenants from having a dripping ceiling. Admittedly, the accident did not come as a complete surprise. In the last few years I had repeatedly thought about the fact that the aquarium could break, which leads us to the next mistake: painting black.

Thinking mistake # 2: painting black

Excessive pessimism acts like a safety net. You want to be prepared, then the impact is no longer so bad. Even with yourself, you would rather pile deeply than be disappointed. Typical thoughts are:

  • It will never be anything.
  • I'm sure to be sued.
  • I'm going to jail.
  • I'm sure I'm seriously ill. (I googled that once ...)

I can hardly estimate how much sleep this mistake in thinking has cost me in the last few years alone. But the aquarium case showed me that when the time comes, my feet will still get wet. You can't really prepare for an emergency. The brooding is useless, but the adrenaline helps to do what needs to be done at the crucial moment.

With enough distance, my fears often strike me as absurd. For example, I remember exactly how nervous I was after I sent off my very first invoice. I was mine for sureOf making mistakes and having problems with the authorities and the customer. This is the problem with painting black: You overlook the favorable and more probable or equally probable scenarios. While the devil is being painted on the wall, the prophecy may then come true: The unemployed person does not send an application because he does not think he has any chances. The author no longer writes out of sheer self-doubt and the musician lets the instrument gather dust.

As an antidote, Dale Carnegie recommends what most of us hated when we were in school: probability. One wonders how often the worst fears have arisen. Admittedly, one cannot always think so clearly when panic at night. Then the (almost always applicable) thought template helps: Everything went well the last few times.

If that doesn't help, distraction helps me (e.g. with the sleep podcast). Or I'll do something to ease my fear. For example, I plan for the next day to find out more about an agonizing question. In general, it is good to be active instead of passively waiting for your ruin. So I try to do something that improves my situation a little bit.

Mistake # 3: Take false feelings as a basis for action

According to Schwartz and Gladding, our brain sometimes fools us fake Feelings before, e.g. For example, the feeling of being able to endure the stress only with a beer or the feeling of having to comfort yourself with chocolate. These pseudo-feelings make it seem like they know what we need. However, they do not come from deep inside. There are by simply Signals from the brain. Synapses that fire - nothing more. In the end, the beer does not relieve our stress, nor does the chocolate bar bring back our ex. But if we reinforce the associations often enough, the connection becomes truer and truer. That means we feed a monster that gets more and more power - until we really can only relax with alcohol or comfort us with sweets. Of course, I also eat sweets and like to go to the nearby beer garden, but I don't let it become a reflex, because things can get out of hand quickly. (It's not for nothing that my article on tips to drink less alcohol is one of the most read on our blog.)

Pseudo-feelings are therefore not a good advisor, not even when making decisions. Fear, for example, distracts us and paralyzes the areas of the brain that are helpful for making decisions.4 “One should make decisions from abundance and not from lack,” someone once advised me and meant by lack, for example, fear and with abundance conviction. In practice, however, we unfortunately often make decisions out of fear, e.g. B. when the insurance agent paints out horror scenarios and happens to have the Super Safe Gold Premium policy with us, which we just have to sign.

Incidentally, the feeling of having to think things through and analyze them after decisions can also degenerate into a kind of addiction. One then ponders about decisions and doubts: What if that was a mistake?Should I have said yes instead of no? etc. Most of the time everything is fine. The brain just does what it always does. It is there to think, not to stand still. For example, recently I had just completed my first podcast interview and was very satisfied, almost euphoric. But a few moments later my brain interfered: But you still have open construction sites. How can you be happy as long as these are unresolved? Such a spoilsport can be my own head. I thought we were on the same side!

By the way, anger isn't always there either real. Still, it makes us send a hard email to the boss and regret it seconds later. It's just difficult to hold out in the moment and do nothing. It is even more difficult to see the real feelings beneath the anger. Perhaps you actually feel inferior because the situation is reminiscent of childhood or a conflict with another person. Or you are lonely and want to numb that feeling. If you can't identify the real feeling, waiting is definitely the best decision, because everything loses its momentum over time. The following applies to angry e-mails: do not send, but wait at least a day. Nevertheless, I vented my dissatisfaction with the DPD messenger. But to be honest, I didn't feel any better after my message to customer service.

Mistake # 4: Unrealistic Expectations

Expectations that are too high make you dissatisfied, because happiness = reality - expectations. For example, if you think that you will definitely not get any stomach problems on your Southeast Asia trip, you will likely be disappointed. And anyone who thinks that they can easily earn a lot of money on the Internet can do so too. Further utopian ideas can be recognized by the following thoughts:

  • Every day has to be special.
  • I want to look like the ones on Instagram / YouTube ...
  • The others must be interested in me.
  • My partner has to carry me on their hands.

Unhealthy isn't just the preprogrammed disappointment. According to Schwartz and Gladding, longings are also counterproductive because they are usually set too high. The model photo on the refrigerator shows no way to 90-60-90. If you want to look like this, but are worlds away from it, you quickly give up your ambitions in frustration and take another ice cream from the freezer. Lower expectations are more likely to be successful and less grueling. In practice that means for me: I'd rather make a few rules than despair of utopian role models. Cakes are only available on special occasions, I don't buy soft drinks and sweets in the first place (but get enough free). Such rules become habits and soon no longer feel like doing without. If the fridge photo motivates: no problem! It is important that you know yourself and keep you happy. And that's an individual story.

Thinking mistake # 5: mind reading

When you don't know something, the brain fills in the gaps. It paints z. B. what the other person is thinking or what drives them. This form of speculation can be recognized, for example, by the following scraps of thought:

  • The way he looks, he is guaranteed to think that ...
  • He doesn't answer, so ...
  • He said that ... but in reality ...
  • The boss is in a bad mood. I'm sure the company is doing badly.

It is not critical that you make sense of the nuances or body language of the other. It is also not a problem that you let your imagination run wild. It only becomes dangerous if you consider your interpretation to be the only true one. Because when it comes to mind reading, you're often wrong. I also say that for the highly sensitive among us, who are often very empathetic, but of course are not fortune tellers. Our carousel of ideas produces a lot of good, but also a lot of rejects. If you let yourself be guided by your suspicions without checking them, you may hiss at your non-greeting neighbor; in doing so, one of them had previously overlooked or was in thoughts. Or you justify yourself because you expect criticism. The other person wants to discuss something completely different. The following thoughts, for example, are healthier and more socially acceptable:

  • I can't (for sure) know what he's thinking.
  • I'll ask what he thinks.

Mind reading is closely related to taking things too personally. Together, these two mistakes are unbeatable when it comes to fueling the carousel of thought.

Mistake # 6: It has to do with me

The thought It has to do with me is mine for two reasons favouritemistake in thinking. First of all, I often meet him with myself and those around me. Second, it can be examined with brain scans; i.e., there is a plausible andorganicCause we take things too personally. We then think e.g. B .:

  • He doesn't say hello. He sure doesn't like me.
  • The neighbors never invite us because they think we're stupid.
  • I didn't get the job because I'm not good enough.
  • The article only has ten likes on Facebook because I write so badly.
  • My photo has so few likes because I'm ugly.

Part of the responsibility for this misconception is an area of ​​the brain that looks at us in the context of a situation and judges whether we are involved or not. So far so good. If this area becomes overactive, it too often leads us to believe that we are involved. We then relate everything to ourselves. Under certain circumstances, there is then an overactive, so-calledOh oh-Center to it. This area is a kind of hazard sensor. It speaks up when something is wrong. When both areas run hot, it always feels as if something is wrong and as if it is our own fault. Then we believe:Something's wrong here and it's my fault.

That explains why some people believe the world revolves around them. Because if you always believe the idea of ​​it's up to you, you mutate into an overly sensitive egocentric. You relate everything to yourself, instigate unnecessary conflicts and sooner or later you really don't get invited any more. You shouldn't always follow this beaten path, otherwise it will get worse and worse. I have the following alternative ideas:

  • The situation most likely has nothing to do with me.
  • The person could be having a bad day.
  • Everyone is the main actor in their own film.

Uncovering mistakes in thinking is both an art and a question of perseverance. According to Schwartz and Gladding, it is best to make a mental note in the first step, such as: B .: Ah, I'm thinking in black and white right now or I'm taking this too personally right now. This classification already creates distance. In addition, the psychologists advise to view your own thoughts from the perspective of a wise advisor consider. What would z. B. say a good friend? Outsiders are not involved, so they are better able to weigh things up and point out to us errors of thought.I also find the approach of shifting focus to be helpful - out of the drawers, away from horror scenarios and longings towards reasonable expectations and real feelings.

Perhaps our thought carousel will be able to generate electricity at some point. Until then, I'll worry my head a lot. At least I rarely allow myself to be paralyzed anymore. For example, I've revised this post umpteen times. Perfectionism almost won, but I kept going and pushed the topic forward bit by bit. It took a long time, but it obviously got there. Because you have just finished reading this article. Thanks!

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  1. Dale Carnegie: Don't Worry - Live !, p. 99
  2. Eckart von Hirschhausen: Happiness rarely comes alone, p. 229
  3. How do you complete an old life? - Kim Frank in a podcast interview
  4. University of Pittsburgh: Just Made a Bad Decision?