Mindsight: Become More Aware of Your Thought Patterns

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10 min

The inside gears of a head

Mindsight refers to your ability to read your own thought patterns. This article includes an activity to help you recognize and challenge negative thought patterns.

Automatic thoughts that are inaccurate occur when we become attached to a distorted view of reality that our minds have generated. If you need a refresher on the most common types of automatic thoughts, go here. We will go over them briefly here:

  • Polarized Thinking/Black-or-white thinking: “Things are either totally bad or totally good.”
  • Overgeneralization/Jumping to conclusions: “I saw one example of something and now I know everything there is to know about the situation.”
  • Catastrophizing: “Something small went wrong and now I think the world might end.”
  • Filtering: “I brush the good stuff under the rug and focus on the bad.”
  • Mindreading: “I know the intentions behind other people’s actions or how they must be feeling.”
  • Emotional reasoning: “I feel, therefore it must be true.”
  • Should/Must statements: “I must conform to my expectations,” and/or “The world should abide by my unspoken internal rules.”

    Instructions

    Step 1

    Consider the types of unhelpful or inaccurate automatic thoughts that come up frequently for you. If there are several, choose the one you feel impacts you the most.


    Step 2

    Come up with a name to refer to this automatic thought. For example, if you have a tendency to catastrophize, you may call it “catastrophizer.” Or if you have a tendency to “mindread,” you could call it “mindreader.” The key here is to separate the part of you that has this thought from the part of you that can look at this thought more objectively.


    Step 3

    For the next week, when you notice this automatic thought arising, jot it down in your journal. Note what the surrounding circumstances were. You may find it helpful to refer to the automatic thought by its name. See if you can step back from the thought and challenge it.

    Here’s an example: Today, during a meeting with my team, I noticed that one of my team members was not fully engaged and kept checking his phone. The Mindreader in me thought he must not care about the project and the Catastrophizer in me thought that he might consider leaving the team and disrupt all our progress. Could these thoughts be wrong? Is there actual evidence and/or facts to support these thoughts?

    By the end of the week, you'll have strengthened your mindsight significantly, but self-awareness requires ongoing work. Keep an eye on how you're thinking, and continue to name your thoughts when they arise!

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