Thinking Errors

Throughout our day we often have many reactive, negative interactions. In Psychology we are taught our perception (thought) determines our emotions and our emotions determine how we react. If we have negative thoughts we then experience negative emotions which cause us be reactive and go into a defensive mode. There are fifteen common thinking errors we often use as a template to distort our thoughts during an interaction. Any time we have a negative encounter with someone one of these thinking errors are used.

  1. Filtering – We take negative details and magnify them while filtering out all positive aspects of a situation.
  2. Black and White Thinking – We place people or situations in either/or categories with no shades of gray.
  3. Overgeneralization – We come to a general conclusion based on a single incident or a single piece of evidence.
  4. Jumping to Conclusions – Without individuals saying so, we know what they are feeling and why they act the way they do. In particular, we are able to determine how people are feeling toward us.
  5. Catastrophizing – We expect disaster to strike no matter what. This is also referred to as “magnifying or minimizing.” We hear about a problem and immediately experience “worst case scenario” thoughts.
  6. Personalization – We believe everything others do or say is some kind of direct, personal reaction to us. We also compare ourselves to others trying to determine who is smarter, better looking, etc.
  7. Control Fallacies – If we feel externally controlled, we see ourselves as a victim of other people’s control over us. Internal control has us assuming responsibility for the pain and happiness of everyone around us.
  8. Fallacy of Fairness – We feel resentful because the situation is not “fair.”
  9. Blaming – We hold other people responsible for our pain, or we blame ourselves for every problem.
  10. Shoulds – We have a list of ironclad rules about how others and we should behave.
  11. Emotional Reasoning – We believe that what we feel in the moment must be true. We assume that our unhealthy emotions reflect the way things really are — “I feel it, therefore it must be true.”
  12. Fallacy of Change – We expect that other people will change to suit us if we just pressure or cajole them enough.
  13. Global Labeling – We generalize one or two qualities into a negative global judgment (stereotyping).
  14. Always Being Right – We are continually on trial to prove that our opinions and actions are correct. Being wrong is unthinkable and we will go to any length to demonstrate our rightness.
  15. Heaven’s Reward Fallacy – We expect our sacrifice and self-denial to pay off, as if someone is keeping score. We feel bitter when the reward doesn’t come.

The goal is to be aware of when we use a thinking error and immediately change our thoughts about the situation. Think of a Rubik’s cube, there is more than one side to look at it just depends on how we hold it. On what we focus our attention will determine if we are proactive or reactive in a situation. The more aware we are in not using one of these thinking errors the more successful we will be in life.

James Miller is a licensed psychotherapist and a piano composer who resides in West Palm Beach, FL. He is currently known for his YouTube channel: JamesMillerLifeology where he gives daily advice in ways to simplify and transform one’s life. Subscribe to receive daily videos. For more information please visit

Leave a Reply