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The 10 Most Unhelpful Thinking Styles

The way we think influences the way we feel and the way we behave in our world. When it comes to thinking, we all possess a pattern of thinking. Some patterns are helpful and guide us toward making positive choices in our lives. While other patterns are a result of how we have adapted to the world to survive our challenges and our upbringings. These patterns of thinking, when practiced over a period of time, become an automatic way of thinking. At which point we are no longer thinking consciously and rather we are operating automatically from the patterns ingrains within us.

These automatic patterns of thinking, of course, influence our perception. If the way we are thinking automatically is unhelpful or negative it can cause a great deal of mental and emotional distress.

Today I am going to talk about the ten most unhelpful thinking styles, which you may also hear them being referred to as cognitive distortions. These cognitive distortions are unhelpful because they distort our reality by causing a commotion in the way we perceive our reality.

As you read through these ten unhelpful thinking styles, keep in mind that some might sounds similar to another. These thinking styles are not meant to be in distinctive categories. The purpose is to help you build awareness and gain insight into which patterns of thinking you possess that could be keeping you stuck.

The 10 most unhelpful thinking styles:

1) Mental Filter

This thinking style involved filtering information. When we use a mental filter, we filter in selective information as we are filtering our other pieces of information. Although we can look at this thinking style as a way to focus on what we think is important, it leads us to look at the situation through a tunnel vision. Where we focus only on one part of the situation, missing the whole picture. In many cases, we become hyper-focused on the negative parts of the situation, overlooking the positive parts of it.

2) “Should” and “Must”

This thinking style is expressed when we use “I should” or “I must” statements. This thinking style becomes unhelpful when we use it to put unrealistic expectations on ourselves or others. Unrealistic expectations and unreasonable demands lead to increased pressure causing us distress.

3) Jumping to conclusions

When we use this thinking style, we are thinking out of an assumption that we know what the other person is thinking and what is going to happen as a result. Sometimes, we may have enough evidence to jump to conclusions and we may be right. Other times, we may be jumping to the wrong conclusions. This thinking style becomes unhelpful when we jump to conclusions by mind-reading or predictive thinking.

4) Personalization

This thinking style is expressed when we take most things personally. In many cases, we blame ourselves for anything that has gone wrong, even if we are partially responsible. Without awareness, we relate things outside of our control, such as external events, to something we did or did not do right. When we personalize something negative, we are taking full responsibility for it, which can be discouraging and cause one to feel overwhelmed.

5) Overgeneralization

Overgeneralizing shows up by using “everyone…” “I never…” or “you always…” statements. This happens when we take one situation from the past and inflict it on current or future situations. For example, “You always leave the dishes in the sink.”

6) Labeling

This thinking style takes place when we label ourselves or others based on a specific situation or behavior expressed. For instance, if someone shows up late to an appointment, labeling looks like, “This person is so inconsiderate.” This thinking style becomes unhelpful when we define a person by a specific behavior that we see as negative. This causes us to overlook the positive qualities of an individual.

7) Catastrophizing

This unhelpful thinking style occurs when we blow things way out of proportion. We take a small problem and make it so big causing us to view it as terrible, awful, and the worst thing that can ever happen. When in reality the problem is minor. This unhelpful style of thinking usually involved “what if” statements. When we default to what if, we are usually catastrophizing predictions that never happened which intensifies our distress levels.

8) Black & White Thinking

This thinking style involves seeing one extreme or another, we either see the good side of the story or the bad side of the story. We default to this is either right or wrong. We overlook the shades of grey, the in-between areas. Black and white thinking is also referred to as all-or-nothing thinking. When we judge a situation negatively with extremes, it sure will bring up negative emotions at their extremes also.

9) Magnification & Minimization

This thinking style takes place when we magnify the positive attributes of others and minimize our own positive attributes. This causes us to disqualify our positive attributes and discount them as if they are not important at all. As a result, this dilutes our positive experiences leading us to turn positive experiences into negative ones and put ourselves down.

10) Emotional reasoning

This thinking style happens when we merely base our view of ourselves, others, or situations on the way we are feeling. When we are feeling negative emotions, we see everything as negative even though there is no evidence to support that perception other than the negative feelings that surfaced for us causing a clouded perception of what is really happening. Thinking in this style is surely going to heighten negative energy.

If you are experiencing a pattern of one or more of these unhelpful thinking styles that are causing you distress and impairing your positive thinking, seeking therapy from a Licensed Professional Counselor can be helpful to work through restructuring these unhelpful thinking patterns into more positive thinking patterns to restore balance and overall mental wellbeing.

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About Sam Nabil

Sam Nabil is the founder of Naya Clinics and is a Boston therapist and a Boston Marriage Counselor.

Sam offers therapy in Boston and Boston Marriage Counseling for adults suffering from relationship challenges, life transitions and anxiety. Sam Nabil was featured in many prestigious publications. Check out his interview with Aljazeera English, The Washington post, The Boston Globe, Fatherly magazine, Women's health magazine, Cornell university, Yahoo News, USA Today,

Naya Clinics is a top-rated Marriage Counseling, therapy and Life coaching practice.

Naya Clinics offers Marriage Counselors near me, individual therapy near me, and life coaching near me in various locations across the USA and the world. Naya Clinics also offers Online marriage counseling, online therapy, and online life coaching.

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