What are thinking errors?
Our mind is always thinking. You may not be aware of your mind working but it is.
Your mind provides a running commentary throughout the day which interprets and makes sense of what is going on around you.
You will have a thought if you notice someone or something: “I can tell by their expression they are happy”;” This place is beautiful”
You will have a thought about why your body feels the way it does: “I am tired and need sleep”; “I am fit, the gym has paid off”.
As you read this article, your mind will be having thoughts about how useful this is or how well it is written: “it’s insightful” ☺; “it’s rubbish” ☹.
These thoughts are essential as without them we would not understand what is going on or what we need. However, at times, your thinking is not helpful and this is because your mind is making mistakes. These mistakes are called “Thinking Errors” and you need to spot them so that they do not hold you back when trying to move forward after a divorce.
What are examples of thinking errors and who makes them?
Thinking errors are interpretations that do not reflect reality, are unrealistic or just plain wrong.
We ALL make thinking errors. For example, have you ever thought after failing at a job interview, “I will never get another job”? or lost your wallet and thought, “I am such an idiot”? Have you have misinterpreted what someone has said or done and thought they did not like you when they actually did? Yes. So have we all.
Why do we have such unhelpful thoughts?
No one can expect or hope to interpret things correctly every time. It is especially hard to read what other people are thinking or predict the future accurately. You might have come from a family who worries a lot or have just grown up in a stressful environment.
When you are feeling anxious or depressed, we are far more likely to make thinking errors that are negative because these feelings we have tend to reinforce the way we think. For example, if you are depressed, you are more likely to notice the negatives, and the more you focus on these, the more depressed you feel. So you can get into a vicious cycle.
Divorce and thinking errors?
When you are getting divorced, you are going to be sad as you are grieving for a loss. You are also more likely to be worried about the future. Therefore you more likely to experience thinking errors.
It is important to notice these as they can make you spiral into feeling more depressed and anxious.
Here are some of the most common divorce thinking errors:
Unrealistically negative predictions about the future:
e.g. I will never meet anyone again
My children will never forgive me
Thinking people are judging/will judge you negatively:
e.g. Everyone will think I am a failure
My date will not be interested in me when he knows I have had 2 divorces
Black and white thinking – you see everything as good or bad
e.g. My life is terrible (and forget about what is good)
Compare and Despair – you compare yourself negatively to others
e.g. He/she are married and much happier than me
Should’a/could’a…. – always putting pressure on yourself to be or do better
e.g. I should be able to keep a relationship together
I ought never to have married him
Negative filter – When you ignore the positive and focus on the negative about yourself
e.g. Yes, I have sorted out my mortgate but look at all the other admin I have to do. Therefore I am so incompetent.
Stuck in the moment – Imagining your life will always be as it is today and forgetting what it could be like in the future
e.g. Things will never get better.
What to do with your negative thoughts?
Notice these thinking errors and recognise that they are just mistakes and replace them with something realistic.
This is different to positive thinking which can feel totally false and unrealistic. Thinking, realistically is the truth and is the most helpful.
So look back on the above statements and replace them with something more truthful/realistic:
- You will meet someone. Your children will forgive you.
- Most people will not think you are a failure and think that you are experiencing something which is sad but not uncommon.
- While some dates will reject you, some (the ones who are understanding and not judgmental) will not mind.
- Your love life may suck right now, but it will get better, and other areas of your life, such as your health, friends or career might be ok or even good.
- Do not try and guess if others are happier as you never can tell what goes on behind closed doors, and whether or not they are happy has not bearing on your own.
- You are not hopeless, there are things you are good at and relationships are difficult for everyone.
- Perhaps you ought not to have married your partner with hindsight but if you look closer there will have been good reasons why you did.
- Be kind to yourself and notice what you are doing well, like sorting a mortgage. Keeping going is a massive achievement.
- And finally…… Things will be good at some point in the future because that is what life is; a collection of good times and bad times and something in between.
Please comment and let us know what you think.
Dr Isabelle Hung is a co-founder of divorceclub.com and clinical psychologist. Having got through her own divorce just three years ago, she is now remarried and happy to report that divorce really is an opportunity for growth and positive change.