Thinking Trap # 2 – Mind Reading
Ahh yes, mind reading. Ye may have this ailment as some of us do. Mind reading is when you believe you know what a person is thinking – and — you know they are thinking negatively about you in terms of what we are doing, how we look, our performance, etc. Which one of these sound like you:
“I want to say something, but if I speak up, and it’s not spot on, they will think I am an idiot.”
“Listen pal, I know what time it is, but I’m a Boss Chick, Queen Bee! You trying to help is really saying you don’t think I know what I’m doing!”
“As I was speaking, I was wondering what were they thinking? I know they are judging what I have on? Or how is my hair? I looked like I gained weight? I knew I should have called in sick.”
“I jumbled a word or two, my date must think I am such a dufus.” Another lonely night with me and my ice cream/video game/blow up doll!”
No one made a comment really after I spoke like they did when Sarah spoke. They didn’t laugh at my attempt at humor like they did for her. They really don’t like me at all.
Some of us have this type of noise or even chatter in our heads which causes anxiety. I know, I have this as well as it is a key feature in those who suffer from social anxiety. Now, if you are thinking, “isn’t it normal to be aware of what others may be thinking?” Right you are. However, for those of us who suffer from this cognitive tennis game of thoughts, we tend to do it more than normal. Especially during times of performance, engaging with others, dating, etc.
Downstream effects of mind reading
Mind reading can cause anxiety, depression, and undue stress. This can put us more into a cognitive funk, which in turn can screw up our thinking even more. One think to keep in mind is that we have to align what occurs outside our minds (environmental feedback) with what’s going on in our minds. This helps to alleviate the angst we may feel and to make sense of what we are experiencing. However, this works as well as when we use drugs or alcohol as a stress reliever. In short term it feels better, but long term it makes things worse. Here are some examples of aligning the environment with our thoughts:
You ask Kendra for a date. She says no. You think that no one wants to date you because you don’t drive a certain type of car or have a certain type of job. So you are reluctant to ask anyone else out
You didn’t get a job you wanted to get. You believe those S.O.B.s are racist or sexist since there are just a few women and women of color that work in that area.
You wish James would ask you out, but he asks out another colleague instead. You think he is just superficial since she has bigger boobs than you do. Screw him.
Mind reading medicine
In each of these scenarios, the person who felt wronged came up with a reason on why the thing happened to them. It sounds – and frankly is – plausible that their conclusion was possible. But to help leap beyond this trap door of thought pattern, one could do the following:
- Introduce other options – Its possible and some cases likely, that there was another reason for the outcome, approach, etc. that you did not think about. Introducing a couple of other options illuminates more possibilities
- Account for non-judgmental/negative options – often our judgments take a negative trajectory. Account for other possibilities that were not negative
- Seek clarification – you can ask the person if they way you took something, was how they meant it. Especially do this with those you have a relationship with as you may feel a bit more ok in pulling it off
- Am I going to die – even if they did think this, ask yourself, “am I going to die?” It may feel like if we focus on it, but in reality, we move forward
- Begin again – most of the time you have another shot – either with that person, job or situation – or another one that is similar. All sales are NOT final! Keeping this in mind is powerful because wrapped inside this mental nugget are the emotional vitamins of self compassion and self forgiveness. These will enable you to continue to march on!
Remember (as I tell myself this as well) – mind reading is often inaccurate and when it is, remember to ask, “am I (really) going to die?” If not, then keep movin!
As always, chin up, eyes forward, mind open – let’s get it started!