Am I Seeing Things Clearly? A Guide to Thinking-Mistakes That We All Make

By Marcia B. Kimeldorf, PhD

 “I got a bad grade on my test! I’m such a loser and now I know I’m going to fail the class!”

“My boss gave me one low rating on my work evaluation. He has it in for me, and he hates me!”

Have you ever had a thought like these? If so, you’re not alone. Most of us are prone to thinking in negative ways from time to time. Stress usually makes these thoughts even worse: We may be more self-critical and less likely to notice positive possibilities.

When that happens, we tend to feel anxious, and/or down and depressed. And guess what? When we have negative emotions we tend to think in more extreme ways and we forget that there is almost always more than one way to see a situation or to solve a problem. That just makes us feel worse, and more likely to have negative thinking patterns.

How can we break out of the cycle of thinking-mistakes and emotional distress?? One way is to recognize the thinking-mistakes that we all make. Once we notice our tendency to make thinking-mistakes, we can learn over time to recognize these patterns and balance out extreme thoughts with more helpful ways of thinking. When we see things from broader and less distorted perspectives, we tend to feel better, because changing the way we think can change the way we feel. 

Here are five common thinking-mistakes:

Black and White Thinking: This is when we see the world in All or Nothing, very extreme terms, without any shades of gray. Examples of this include statements like “I am either a success or a failure.” “I love you or I hate you.” “Should I quit this job tomorrow or stay for the rest of my career?” When we think like this, we forget the very important point that things are almost never without nuance, or other less extreme options.

Mind reading: This is when we assume we know what others are thinking (even though logically, of course we can’t know that). Examples include “when she invited me out to dinner, I know she just did it because she pities me.” “I know all the other kids think I’m an idiot.”

Catastrophizing: When we assume the worst. E.g. “If I tell her how I feel, she’ll hate me forever.” “If I try and I fail, I would be unable to stand it.” 

Emotional reasoning: When we believe that if we feel something, it must be true, and we should act upon it. E.g., “If I feel anxious, I shouldn’t go to the party.” “I feel so angry at him, I must express it right now, so he knows how I feel.” 

Disqualifying the positive: Telling ourselves that the positive experiences or feedback we receive doesn’t count. “E.g. I did well in today’s meeting/ presentation/basketball game because I just got lucky”, “Even though he said he liked my work, I know he didn’t really mean it.” 

As mentioned, these are some of the most common thinking mistakes, but there are others too. If you notice yourself tending to think in these ways, here are some questions you can ask yourself to help generate more balanced thoughts. 

“Have I had any experiences that show that this thought is not completely true all the time?”

“If a friend of mine had this thought, what would I tell him or her?” (It’s often easier to think in a balanced way for other people than for ourselves) 

“Are there any small things that contradict my thoughts that I might be discounting as not important?” 

“Are there any strengths or positives in me or the situation that I am ignoring?” 

“When I have felt this way in the past, what did I think about that helped me feel better? What have I learned from previous experiences that could help me now?”

Noticing our tendencies to make thinking mistakes is an important step toward managing our feelings. When you find yourself thinking negatively, try asking yourself the above questions and see if you can balance out your thinking, and thereby change how you feel.

Inspirational Message

The Way of Mastery is to break all the rules—but you have to know them perfectly before you can do this; otherwise you are not in a position to transcend them.


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Calmer in the Face of Hardship
I came to the Center for Anxiety for help in dealing with a family member who suffered from extreme anxiety. But I ended up getting a serious illness two months later and started having my own sessions. With the help of my therapist I got through my illness, learned to understand my habits that were making my major life stresses worse, learned to communicate better, taper my anger, and surprisingly I became more calmer even though my hardships in life worsened. Therapy is a lot of work and not easy, but nothing in life comes easy! I became a better and softer mom and (when I practice what I learned) and my kids and home are calmer and happier. I am still a work in progress and have more to work on, but I know I am on the right path. I wish I knew before how my communication style and anger were really impacting my life, how being softer you can accomplish way more then being harsh. I have been to other therapists in the past and I can hands down say that the Center for Anxiety’s approach is really effective. I have even referred a bunch of people to the Center and they have been really happy with the therapists and how much they really care for their patients.
I Tackled a Long List of Fears
When I first came to the Center for Anxiety, my list of anxieties/fears was long! I was scared of getting sick, getting stranded, driving, flying and more. With the help of my therapist, I immediately got to work and tackled every one of my fears. Now the world is open to me and I feel free! I can dream big and accomplish whatever I set my mind to! I am especially grateful that I was able to do all this without having to rely on medication. It was hard work – grueling at times! – but now I have the coping tools within me for life. In fact a family member recently said to me “You are awesome. You can accomplish anything you set your mind to because you don’t let fear stop you! ” Thank you Dr. Rosmarin and the Center for Anxiety staff for helping me get here. My fears no longer limit me and I love my life. Try it, it might turn your life around too!
Highly Skilled and Professional Treatment
When I sought treatment at the Center for Anxiety, the clinic was is in its incipient stages. However, by the time I successfully finished treatment, the Center for Anxiety grew and flourished into a world-class treatment center, offering cutting-edge, evidence-based treatment to countless individuals. The continued success of the Center for Anxiety comes as no surprise to me, with a team that contains such highly skilled professionals who display clinical acumen, empathy, and compassion. When I first entered treatment I was concerned that therapy would be similar to the experiences with past psychologists: a seemingly bottomless pit with no reductions in my anxiety symptoms, but was so relieved when I started to feel less anxious after only a handful of sessions. My therapist created a treatment plan that was tailored exactly to my needs and taught me practical skills to help me work through my anxiety that I still use and practice to this very day.
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When I first came in, I was struggling with panic disorder and didn’t even know it, which only made dealing with it that much more difficult. After my first time sitting down with my therapist, however, I instantly started to gain perspective and look at the difficult situation in a different light. Our meetings helped me conquer the issue step by step and get my life back on track. I’d strongly recommend that anyone dealing with anxiety in a way that impacts their day to day life should visit the Center for Anxiety! I know it helped me tremendously.
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When I woke up one morning last June and didn’t want to get out of bed, I knew I needed help. The thought of getting through another day with all my anxieties, obsessions and rituals was just too overwhelming. After feeling stuck for years, I just couldn’t anymore. Thankfully, that’s when I found the Center for Anxiety. Dr. Rosmarin and his staff are experts at what they do, kind and professional. After just several weeks I accomplished my initial targets. The change I experienced in such a short amount of time was astounding that I stayed on for a while longer to work on more complex goals. I soon achieved those too. Now, I am free of my obsessions, know how to manage my anxiety, and love my life. My only regret: not having done this sooner. I wish I had known that you don’t have to wait to hit rock bottom to get help.
Depression Lifted
I’m 26 years old and I’ve been suffering from terrible depression for 7 years. In the throws of my sadness I literally wanted to die. Soon after starting therapy at the Center for Anxiety, my depression lifted. My suicidal thoughts began to dissipate. I remember the feeling that came over me as soon as the dark cloud above me left. It was the most liberating feeling I have ever experienced. I actually shouted to my friends, family and anyone nearby me “I’m Happy! I am Happy!” I felt free.
Over the course of four years I developed anxiety-like symptoms (tightness in chest, gut, back) that slowly but surely increased in duration and severity. The EXTREMELY uncomfortable nature of the symptoms notwithstanding, I still continued and managed to function. The effort required to do so, however, left me utterly drained. Having always been a very spiritual person I strongly felt that a course of therapy incorporating a spiritual component could potentially work well for me and decided to give the Center for Anxiety a try. Happily, I have achieved significant symptom reduction, tremendously improved emotional/mental health, and above all, Connection. Medication free. I’m no longer just existing, I’m LIVING. I’ve been given a second chance to become the unique human being that I was meant to be.
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I have wormed in healthcare for 36 years in many different settings, and I have been overwhelmingly satisfied with the Center for Anxiety. When staff says they are going to call, I get a call. From the first contact, I have been very impressed with the professionalism and efficiency. I had a situation and needed to have sessions more than once per week, and my clinicians worked out a schedule to accommodate my needs. I was astounded that they attended to me so quickly and effectively - they made my priority their priority. My clinicians were also excellent at what they do - they have a plan for me each session, and it's clear that they have thought in advance about each session, and that they are listening to what I say and observing what I do, even though our sessions have been conducted via Telehealth. Compassion is a quality that I have all too often found to be lacking in my experiences as a healthcare professional and patient, and this is not the case with the Center for Anxiety. Of all the websites I found on Google, I am so thankful that God guided my hand to yours.

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